It was an action-packed day filled with stakes action at Woodbine Racetrack yesterday in what was the final major stakes race card of the season in 2020. The day featured four stakes races, including two Grade I races, the $340,200 Northern Dancer Stakes and also the $600k E.P. Taylor Stakes. A bit of history, Northern Dancer, whom the former race was named after, went on to become one of the world’s most prolific stallions, making his mark internationally as the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. He was owned by Windfields Farms, then situated in Oshawa at the time, which was founded by E.P. Taylor. Woodbine‘s world-famous turf course is named after the accomplished Taylor.
Over $6.7 million was wagered on the Sunday race card, once again proving that Woodbine‘s quality brand of racing continues to flourish throughout this Pandemic as American audiences continue to wager north. With the Ontario Government’s announcement of a modified rollback to Re-Opening Stage II, the Track remains closed to the public and is open only for Trainers, Essential Equine Careworkers and select Media.
The headliner E.P. Taylor Stakes was taken by Chad Brown trainee ETOILE, a four-year-old French-bred filly by popular stallion Siyouni and owned by a partnership of Brant, Magnier and Shanahan. The win, piloted by Rafael Hernandez, was her first stakes win on this side of the Atlantic, rewarding her backers with $7.00 on a $2.00 bet as the second choice. Fun fact, her sire is a half-brother to Siyouma whom won this same race in 2012. 41-1 longshot COURT RETURN finished second, ahead of SECRET MESSAGE, who we confirmed was making her final start before being sold at auction as a broodmare prospect.
The Northern Dancer Stakes was taken by Sam-Son Farm homebred SAY THE WORD, who has seen a dramatic improvement in form since changing hands to Trainer Gail Cox. The five-year-old More Than Ready gelding trailed the field and made a bid late to win by a length under Emma-Jayne Wilson, paying $7.80 on a $2.00 bet. Second was SIR SAHIB, owned by Stronach Stables which had a successful three wins at Woodbine this weekend. Third was race favourite Admiralty Pier.
The day reached an emotional high note in the Grade II Nearctic Stakes with Stronach Stables’ SILENT POET taking the $290k turf sprint as the race favourite, under Justin Stein. In second was last year’s victor CITY BOY and third was Graham Motion-trained invader KANTHAKA. Stein on the way to the Winner’s Circle made humbling pointing gestures to the talented four-year-old Silent Name gelding, who has stamped himself the best turf sprinter in the country right now with the score for Trainer Nick Gonzalez. The Conditioner recently had lost his wife and former Assistant Trainer, Martha. Tears could be witnessed as he attributed the win to Martha watching over him and his Team, including current Assistant Trainer Pam O’Connor. Silent Poet‘s groom Phil Hyde also recently lost his mother, hence emotions were high among the bunch who have been through some challenging times this year. Following the race, they all walked back to the barn together united in memory of Martha.
Promising two-year-old colt HELIUM took the $100k Display Stakes. The son of Ironicus, owned by D.J. Stable LLC and trained by Mark Casse swept to the lead at the top of the stretch under Emma-Jayne Wilson to win by just over four lengths as the race favorite, returning $4.80 on a $2.00 bet. Finishing second was GOSPEL WAY, just ahead of DECIMATOR. Team Casse had a fantastic weekend at Woodbine, winning an outstanding eight races!
The third and final jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Stakes, will be contested Saturday, October 25, 2020 at Woodbine! Stay tuned to see if the “one-eyed wonder” MIGHTY HEART will become only the 13th horse to accomplish the feat! Stream the Post Position Draw this Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at noon on Woobdine.com.