John Oxley's Spring in the Air, last year's Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top juvenile filly, heads a field of eight Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies for Sunday's $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser.
Post time for the 58th edition of the mile and one-eighth filly classic over Woodbine's Polytrack is 4:47 p.m. ET, with the winner earning $300,000. All fillies carry 121 pounds. Also on Sunday's card is the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes at 4:12 p.m., which attracted 11 Canadian-foaled three-year-olds with hopes of competing in Canada's most famous horse race, the Queen's Plate, on July 7.
CBC-TV will televise both the Plate Trial and Woodbine Oaks as part of a special live one-hour telecast from 4:00 p.m. -5:00 p.m. ET.
Oxley and trainer Mark Casse sent out last year's favourite in the Oaks in Dixie Strike, along with second choice Northern Passion, but could only finish fifth and second, respectively, to Irish Mission.
Spring in the Air enters the Oaks off a determined half-length win over Smartyfly in the seven-furlong Fury Stakes on May 4. It was her third start of the 2013 campaign after finishing second to stablemate Spring Venture in the Ocala Breeders Sales Championship Stake March 11, followed by a disappointing ninth place run to Emollient in the April 6 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
The bay filly, purchased for $130,000 at the 2012 Ocala Breeders Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, is the field's leading money winner with $541,510.
With regular rider Patrick Husbands recuperating from an injury, Casse has secured the services of North America's leading money-winning jockey this year in Joel Rosario. Rosario, of course, piloted Orb to a popular score in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 and also was aboard Animal Kingdom for his brilliant win in the Dubai World Cup in March.
“I hope that she'll be an improved filly from that start,” said Casse. “We're not sure why she didn't run better in the Ashland at Keeneland, but she's trained really well since then and if she brings her ‘A' game, she's going to be very tough to beat. I'm not worried about the distance at all.”
Chiefswood Stable has two viable homebred Oaks candidates in Nipissing and Original Script.
Nipissing, trained by Rachel Halden, was unbeaten in four starts last season, highlighted by her gritty win in the prestigious Princess Elizabeth Stakes. The daughter of Chiefswood's 2004 Plate winner Niigon has started twice this year, finishing a sixth (ahead of Spring in the Air) to Emollient in the Ashland at Keeneland in April, before most recently winding up the runner-up to Coffee Clique in the mile and one-sixteenth Selene Stakes, May 19, while giving the winner seven pounds.
To be ridden as usual by Steven Bahen, who won the 1996 Oaks aboard Silent Fleet, Nipissing will try to duplicate the feat of Roan Inish, the 2010 Oaks winner who also scored in the Princess Elizabeth as a juvenile. Overall, the bay filly has won four of six starts and $334,430.
“A mile and an eighth definitely suits her,” said Bahen. “Even in the Selene, she galloped out with the winner. Hopefully we get a good break and get position so all she has to do is run down the lane.”
Original Script, a daughter of Malibu Moon, will be handled by Jesse Campbell, who was aboard for all three of her starts last year, including two wins and a stakes placing to Aunt Els in the Ontario Lassie.
This year, the Paul Attard trainee enters the Oaks off a front-running score in an allowance contest on May 18 over one and one-sixteenth miles. She had made her seasonal debut in the Gulfstream Oaks on March 30 at Gulfstream Park, but was a victim of Dreaming of Julia's monstrous 22-length romp when finishing sixth.
Trainer Malcolm Pierce will send out a pair of Sam-Son Farm homebreds in Smartyfly and Dance Again.
Smartyfly, a daughter of Smart Strike, pushed Spring in the Air to the limit in the Fury Stakes, May 4, closing for second, just a half-length in arrears. A one-time winner in five career starts, including a third place finish to Nipissing in last year's Princess Elizabeth while still a maiden, Smartyfly will be ridden by Eurico Rosa da Silva.
Sam-Son Farm will be seeking a record eighth win in the Oaks, following Classy ‘n Smart (1984), Tilt My Halo (1988), Tiffany's Secret (1990), Dance Smartly (1991), Catch The Ring (2000), Dancethruthedawn (2001) and Eye of the Sphynx (2004).
Dance Again, a daughter of 1997 Queen's Plate winner Awesome Again, is a one-time winner in five starts but will be making her debut on Polytrack. She's raced four times on the grass but broke her maiden in February on the main track at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Shaun Bridgmohan rides.
Rounding out the field are Pink Trillium, Tiz Ro and Rutherford Road
$500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser
One Mile and One-Eighth, Polytrack
Sunday, June 9, Post Time: 4:47 pm ET
1/Pink Trillium/Sean Smullen/Luis Contreras/8-1
2/Dance Again/Malcolm Pierce/Shaun Bridgmohan/12-1
3/Rutherford Road/Mike Doyle/Justin Stein/30-1
4/Original Script/Paul Attard/Jesse Campbell/4-1
5/Tiz Ro/Robert Martin/Todd Kabel/15-1
6/Spring in the Air/Mark Casse/Joel Rosario/2-1
7/Nipissing/Rachel Halden/Steven Bahen/9-5
8/Smartyfly/Malcolm Pierce/Eurico Rosa da Silva/6-1
$150,000 Plate Trial Stakes, One Mile and One Eighth, Polytrack
Sunday, June 9, Post time: 4:12 p.m.
Post Position/Horse/Trainer/Jockey/Morning Line
1/Pyrite Mountain/Mark Frostad/Luis Contreras/5-2
2/Jagger M/Mark Casse/Shaun Bridgmohan/8-1
3/Dynamic Sky/Mark Casse/Joel Rosario/7-2
4/Midnight Aria/Nick Gonzalez/Jesse Campbell/12-1
5/Holy Whirl Wind/Reade Baker/Emma-Jayne Wilson/20-1
6/Philego/Mike DePaulo/Justin Stein/30-1
7/River Seven/Nick Gonzalez/Todd Kabel/4-1
8/Iratus Leo/John MacKenzie/Gerry Olguin/50-1
9/Kid Dreams/Neil Drysdale/Javier Castellano/6-1
10/Kaigun/Mark Casse/Joel Rosario/12-1
11/His Race to Win/Malcolm Pierce/Eurico Rosa da Silva/15-1
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