Churchtown Tops Competitive Field of 10 in G2 Connaught Cup

July 22, 2023

Churchtown’s last win at Woodbine came July 3, 2022 in an allowance optional claimer (Michael Burns)

By Bill Tallon – Woodbine Communications

TORONTO— Churchtown, who began his current campaign with a pair of gutsy second-place finishes south of the border, has been back at Woodbine since early May and will be looking to return to the winner’s circle in Sunday’s Connaught Cup Presented by Bulleit Bourbon.

The Connaught Cup (G2T), a seven-furlong race on the E.P. Taylor Turf, which offers a purse of $175,000, has attracted a solid field of 10 older horses.

“He’s training very, very well,” said Roger Attfield, who conditions Churchtown for William Harrigan and Mike Pietrangelo. “I expect him to run very well here. We gave him quite a bit of time off, to get ready for this race.”

Churchtown, a close second in the one-mile Toronto Cup on the Taylor surface last year, went on to become a stakes winner in the 1 1/16-mile Gio Ponti over Aqueduct turf.

After winding up his sophomore campaign with a seventh-place finish in in the Tropical Park Derby on Gulfstream’s Tapeta surface, the Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding was back in action there April 1 and was a battling second, beaten a half-length by Steady On in the Appleton Stakes over one mile of turf.

Five weeks later, Churchtown stopped over at Churchill Downs on his way north and suffered another tough beat, dropping a head decision to the Grade 1 winner Annapolis in the May 4 Opening Verse, also over one mile on the grass.

“That last race was an excellent, excellent race, no question about that,” said Attfield. “That was a nice horse that beat him. He’s a real fighter, this guy. His last two races were two-turn races, and this is seven furlongs, with the one sweeping turn. But I don’t think that makes any difference, really.”

Bound for Nowhere takes Woodbine’s Highlander (G2) July 2, 2022 (Michael Burns)

Bound for Nowhere, the senior member of the field, is 9 years old but has made just 22 career starts under the judicious handling of owner/trainer Wesley Ward.

“I don’t race him so often, because he’s been so good to us,” said Ward. “I give him every winter off. I think that’s one of the reasons for the longevity.”

The Kentucky-bred will be making his third appearance on the Taylor course after winning last year’s Highlander (G2T) and running second in the Nearctic (G2), both at six furlongs.

The Connaught Cup, however, will be the first race as far as seven furlongs since the fall of 2019 for the multiple stakes winner whose resume includes a close third-place finish in Ascot’s 2018 running of the Grade 1 Diamond Jubilee, one of his four trips across the pond.

“That’s why I chose this race, because of the distance” said Ward, who supplemented Bound for Nowhere to the Connaught Cup at a cost of $2,625. “I think one of the best races of his life was at Belmont, going seven-eighths. He won an allowance race there (on Oct 25, 2019). At this stage I think five, 5 ½ furlongs is a little too short for him.”

Also invading for the Connaught Cup is Dreams of Tomorrow, who is shipping in from Saratoga off a respectable fifth-place finish in Belmont’s Poker (G3T) over one mile of turf for trainer Shug McGaughey.

Dream Shake is another intriguing prospect. The Kentucky-bred, briefly on the Kentucky Derby trail in 2021, was an impressive winner when making his local debut at seven furlongs on the Tapeta in his second start back from a lengthy layoff for new trainer Michael Stidham.

Lucky Score victorious in the Highlander (G2) July 1 at Woodbine (Michael Burns)

Lucky Score, winner of Woodbine’s Highlander on Canada Day, will be looking to repeat in his second start for trainer Mark Casse following a private purchase.

Luckman, upset winner of last year’s Toronto Cup at the direct expense of Churchtown, comes into the Connaught Cup off a one-mile score under allowance terms on the inner turf course.

Rounding out the field will be War Bomber, winner of the Toronto Cup in 2021; Roaring Forties, successful in the restricted Sunshine Turf at Gulfstream this January; and the Marty Drexler-trained pair of Old Chestnut and Banff, both minor turf stakes winners at Woodbine.

First post time for Sunday’s card, which includes the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser, along with the $150,000 Plate Trial, and $150,000 Trillium Stakes Presented by Stella Artois (G3), is 1:05 p.m. Fans can also watch and wager on all the action through and the Dark Horse Bets app.


Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer

1 – Banff – Eswan Flores – Martin Drexler

2 – Churchtown – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Roger Attfield

3 – Dream Shake – Rafael Hernandez – Michael Stidham

4 – Lucky Score – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse

5 – War Bomber (IRE) – Rico Walcott – Norm McKnight

6 – Dreams of Tomorrow – Patrick Husbands – Shug McGaughey

7 – Luckman – Ryan Munger – Vito Armata

8 – Bound for Nowhere – Manuel Franco – Wesley Ward

9 – Old Chestnut – Kazushi Kimura – Marty Drexler

10 – Roaring Forties – Declan Carroll – Katerina Vassilieva

@jonathanstettin as always, great read! you are the the best!!!

stephen smith (@123stephenwin) View testimonials