Woodbine’s Star-Stacked Sunday
TORONTO, Ont. – Eight starters chase the top prize in the $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (G1T) Sunday at Woodbine.
The Northern Dancer is complemented by a trio of stakes events, including the 64th running of the E.P. Taylor, a 1 ¼-mile turf test for fillies & mares, three-year-olds and upward.
Sunday’s card will also see nine starters contest the $250,000 Nearctic (G2T), while eight hopefuls face off in the $100,000 Display Stakes.
Trainer Gail Cox has a trio of talented turfers taking up the Sam-Son Farm charge, namely, Count Again and Say the Word in the Northern Dancer, as well as Rideforthecause in the E.P. Taylor.
Count Again, the lightly raced five-year-old son of Awesome Again has been impressive over his six lifetime outings.
On September 19, the bay gelding, despite being heavily steadied into the far turn, drove to the front outside of the eighth-pole and secured a 1 ¼ length win in the Singspiel Stakes (G3T).
The final time for 1 ¼ miles over a “firm” E.P. Taylor Turf Couse was 2:00.67.
“He ran great,” praised Cox. “Again, it was exactly what he wanted to do, which is to go a distance. A mile-and-a-sixteenth was always a little short for him. So, the added distance… he was really good. He did win pretty easily.”
It was the first stakes engagement for Count Again, who Cox is counting on once again to come up big on the Woodbine grass.
“He’s a very nice horse. I know anyone that’s trained him has really liked him. He just had this and that which had bothered him, which led to him having some time off. He needed to get really good and comfortable. He seems to like training here. He does a fair amount of training on the dirt here, but he’s been happy here, and has come out of his races really well.”
The third Sam-Son Farm homebred to see action on Sunday is Say the Word, a five-year-old son of More Than Ready.
Third to Count Again in the Singspiel, the dark bay gelding was sixth in the 2018 Queen’s Plate, going on to finish second in the turf Breeders’ Stakes, third jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown, in that same year.
The multiple graded stakes placed gelding, sporting a record of 4-2-4 from 24 career starts, is in search of his first stakes victory.
Cox believes Say the Word will relish the 1 ½-mile Northern Dancer distance.
“He was closing ground [in the Singspiel] and he didn’t have the easiest of trips. I think he’ll love this distance. He’s another one that we had to send away to run farther. And that worked out. But he needs the distance and he doesn’t like the Tapeta. He was originally set to run on it, but he just didn’t like it.”
As for similarities between her trio of stakes hopefuls, Cox only sees a pair of obvious connections.
“Besides liking to go long and liking the turf, they don’t really have anything in common. They’re pretty different horses. Most of the time there’s something that you’re usually worried about, but they are all coming into these races well.”
Graded stakes champ Admiralty Pier, who won last year’s Tampa Bay Stakes (G3T) at 21-1, will chase his sixth career victory in his 23rd start. Bred by Calumet Farm and owned by Hoolie Racing Stable and Bruce Lunsford, the son of English Channel finished second in both the Connaught Cup (G2T) and King Edward (G2T) before a sixth in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile on September 19.
Four-year-old ridgling Jungle Fighter, a four-year-old son of Animal Kingdom, will get his fourth shot at graded stakes glory having contested last year’s Ontario Derby (G3), and this year’s Seagram Cup (G3) and Singspiel (G3T). Trained by Michael Doyle for Stronach Stables, the Kentucky-bred is 3-3-1 from 10 starts.
Staghawk Stables’ five-year-old Nakamura has never finished lower than fifth in his 17 career starts. The four-time winner, who won three straight races in 2019, will be making his second straight start at Woodbine after finishing fourth in the Singspiel (G3T) on September 19.
Peace of Ekati, owned by Colebrook Farms and bred by Charles Fipke, has eight top-three finishes from 16 starts. Trained by Ashlee Brnjas, the five-year-old son of Tale of Ekati has finished second in his two previous starts. The Northern Dancer will be the chestnut gelding’s first graded stakes appearance.
Five-year-old Sir Sahib, trained by Kevin Attard, looks for his first win since May 18, 2019. The Stronach Stables silk bearer has a 2-4-7 mark from 20 outings, and arrives at the Northern Dancer off a runner-up performance in the Singspiel. The son of Fort Larned will be ridden by Justin Stein.
An Ontario-bred six-year-old son of Langfuhr, Woodbridge is 3-2-7 from 27 starts. The gelding, owned by the Estate of Gustav Schickedanz and Donald Howard, was fifth last time out in the Singspiel. The bay is trained by Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee Michael Keogh.
Sam-Son has a record seven Northern Dancer trophies, including three straight scores from 2002-04. Full of Wonder kicked off the natural hat trick, followed by back-to-back wins by Strut the Stage.
Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com. First race post time on Sunday is set for 1:10 p.m.
$300,000 Northern Dancer Stakes (Grade 1) – Race 5
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Say the Word – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Gail Cox
2 – Peace of Ekati – Daisuke Fukumoto – Ashlee Brnjas
3 – Sir Sahib – Justin Stein – Kevin Attard
4 – Jungle Fighter – Rafael Hernandez – Michael Doyle
5 – Nakamura – Kazushi Kimura – Graham Motion
6 – Woodbridge – Sahin Civaci – Michael Keogh
7 – Admiralty Pier – Steven Bahen – Barbara Minshall
8 – Count Again – Luis Contreras – Gail Cox
Woodbine Entries for Sunday, October 18
Photo: Northern Dancer Turf Stakes contender Count Again with jockey Luis Contreras on the Woodbine backstretch. (Michael Burns Photo)