Woodbine‘s TURF RACING FESTIVALtook place this past weekend with two action-packed cards including four marquee Grade I races of the 2021 meet, the $600k Pattison Canadian International, the $400k Summer Stakes, the $400k Natalma Stakes and the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile. The former, traditionally contested in October, gets pushed-early to coincide with the Festival.
Wagering was healthy this past weekend, totalling a stellar $26 million. Winners of the Summer, Natalma and Woodbine Mile earn a berth in the Breeders’ Cup November 5&6 at Del Mar in California.
The Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Saturday went to local six-year-old gelding TOWN CRUISE, who is bred, owned and trained by Brandon Greer. As the lone speed in the race, he went wire to wire accelerating from moderator to quick fractions under Daisuke Fukumoto, winning by 2 1/4 lengths and paying $19.30 on a $2 wager. The victory was all the more impressive considering that traditionally the race is won by horses and jockeys shipping-in, proof and celebration of the consistently-improving talent of the local contingent. The final time for the one-mile race was 1:35.1. The victory earned him a spot in the Breeders’ Cup with the race being a Win-and-You’re-In qualifier. Second was Space Traveller and Raging Bull was third.
Winning the $600k Pattison Canadian International was well-travelled seven-year-old gelding WALTON STREET, scoring by a widening 5 3/4 lengths under legendary rider Frankie Dettori. Owned by Godolphin and trained by Charles Appleby. Charismatic Dettori even did a signature flying dismount off the horse in the Winner’s Circle.
Being the consummate professional, Dettori was seen walking around upon arrival Saturday and studying the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, and cheers could be heard from the grandstand for the icon.
Earlier on the Saturday card, the $250k Grade II Canadian Stakes went to American invader LA DRAGONTEA. The four-year-old filly owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Rebecca Hillen, is trained by Christophe Clement. Top American rider Joel Rosario piloted the win on the favourite, who paid $4.40 for the win.
The Natalma Stakes for two-year-old fillies at a mile on the turf, went on Sunday to regally-bred WILD BEAUTY, a daughter of Frankel,once again for the combination of Godolphin, Appleby and Dettori. Winning by 2 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:36.08, she went off as the race favourite, paying $4.90 on a $2 bet.
ALBAHR, a two-year-old gelding by Dubawi also would score for the aforementioned Trio in the Summer Stakes, winning also by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:35.7. He was the prohibitive favourite, returning $3.30 to his backers.
Two other stakes went off on the Sunday undercard including both the $150k Ontario Racing and Woodbine Care Stakes. The former went to Mark Casse trainee DIAMOND CITY, under Emma-Jayne Wilson and the latter went to Christophe Clement trainee DERRYMANE under Joel Rosario.
The amazing EURICO ROSA DA SILVA returned back to Woodbine on Sunday to receive his Avelino Gomez Award. The honour is to recognize outstanding achievements by a jockey.
The weekend was star-studded on an equine and human scale. Renowned Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay graced us with his presence, supporting his filly PIZZA BIANCA in the Natalma Stakes in which she finished a game second.
The next Grade I stake of the meet is the E.P. Taylor Stakes on October 17, 2021 for fillies and mares on the turf at 1 1/4 miles and a purse of $600k. The third jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Stakes goes on October 3, 2021 for $400k at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.