TORONTO – Trainer Dan Vella will send out the duo of Spring Mountain and Where’s Neal in Sunday’s $250,000 Cup & Saucer Stakes, at Woodbine.
A 1 1/16-mile event for Canadian-bred two-year-olds run over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, the Cup & Saucer has drawn 11 starters, including Spring Mountain, a son of Silent Name (JPN), and Where’s Neal, a son of Society’s Chairman. The Grade 3 $150,000 Durham Cup (1 1 /16-miles on the Tapeta), for three-year-olds and upwards, and the Grade 3 $150,000 Ontario Matron (also 1 1/16-miles on the Tapeta), for fillies & mares, three-year-olds and upwards, are also on tap.
Bred in Ontario by Linda Mason, Where’s Neal heads into the Cup & Saucer off a maiden-breaking victory in the Bull Page Stakes, contested over one mile on the Inner Turf, on September 17. The gelding set the pace and crossed the line a three-quarters of a length winner in a time of 1:40.05 over firm ground.
Vella was surprised to see where Where’s Neal began his Bull Page journey but pleased with how it concluded.
“I was a little worried after a few 100 yards when he ended up on the front end,” admitted Vella. “I really didn’t want that. We were hoping to sit in behind the speed, but down the backside you could see that he was going pretty easily and he was kind of on cruise control, just going along nicely. Considering he did all the hard work and still got the job done we were very pleased. We’d much rather see him sit behind the pace a little bit rather than be on it, but it was what it was. They’re just learning.”
Owned by Sea Glass LLC, Where’s Neal debuted on August 29 in the Simcoe Stakes, a 6 ½-furlong Tapeta event, finishing second to Ironstone, who is set to contest the Shady Well Stakes on Saturday at Woodbine.
Spring Mountain has had two eventful starts to his career, including his career bow on September 2 at Woodbine, when he ducked out and then lugged in during the 6 ½-furlong race on the E.P. Taylor.
One race later, in the Bull Page, he hopped at the start before recovering to rally and net third spot in the race won by his stablemate.
“The hop, it wasn’t much,” noted Vella, who co-owns the gelding with Stephan and Rita Shefsky, Willy and Toby Kruh, and Solomon Pillersdorf. “I don’t think it was much of a problem. He did a little hop out of the gate… they’re young horses, so those things happen. I think the sharper turn didn’t help his chances. Without that sharp turn in the Cup & Saucer, I think he’ll be much better.”
Vella, who has 856 career wins to date, saw promise in both horses early on.
“These two, you knew right from the start that they had potential. Where’s Neal had the benefit of going to Florida. Mike Cooke had him down there for me and he told me that this was a pretty nice horse. We knew that. The horse came up here to Woodbine six weeks before I ran him the first time.
“Spring Mountain stayed here and he was out at CamHaven Farms all winter. Right from the start… big, strong horse and big stride. He does everything kind of aggressively. His mother [Moonlit Beauty] was a great horse. We bought him mostly on looks. He’s just a big, good-looking horse.”
Do the young horses make the veteran trainer grow a few more grey hairs or keep him young?
“Is it possible they do both?” offered Vella. “You certainly look forward to going to work when you have nice horses. There’s no doubt about that. But good horses are always a little more stress, that’s for sure.”
Personality-wise, Spring Mountain and Where’s Neal are polar opposites.
“They’re very different animals. Spring Mountain is a big, strong, kind of coarser horse. He’s a bit of a bull. Where’s Neal is a more refined horse. Both are about the same size, good-sized horses. Where’s Neal has a very easy-going attitude where he wants to do things right and Spring Mountain is more, ‘Let’s just go and we’ll figure the rest out later.’”
Other contenders include Dancin in Da’nile, a Sam-Son Farm homebred trained by Gail Cox.
The son of Pioneerof the Nile made his debut a winning one, eking out a neck victory in a seven-furlong Tapeta race originally scheduled for the turf.
“I thought his first start was very impressive,” praised Cox. “He was a little bit green, but really ran a very good race. I think he should take a step forward from that.”
Stronger Together, bred by Jim Dandy Stable and owned by Spruce Park Stable, heads into his second lifetime start and first stakes appearance off a third-place finish on September 5.
Shamateur sticks a nose in front of Stowaway and Stronger Together to capture a September 5th race at Woodbine. (Michael Burns Photo)
Sent off at 5-1 in the one mile and 70-yard Tapeta race, the son of Liam’s Map, trained by Sid Attard, was steadied at the start finding himself 11 lengths behind the leader at the quarter-mile pole. Fifth at the stretch call, Stronger Together netted the show award, beaten just a neck for top spot.
“He’s been doing really well,” said Attard, two wins shy of 2,100 for his career, as of October 6. “He came out of the gate slow, but he ran a huge race. I was very happy with how he recovered from that start and how hard he was running at the end of the race. He was really running hard. He’s coming into this race in very good shape. He had a work last Sunday (October 3, five furlongs, 1:01.60, breezing) and he worked very, very good. He’s doing very well ahead of this race. He’s a very nice horse.”
Hall of Fame trainer Jim Day has won 10 editions of the Cup & Saucer, including seven straight runnings from 1984-1990.
The Cup & Saucer is slated as race eight on Sunday’s 11-race card. First post time is 12:55 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com and the Dark Horse Bets app.
$250,000 CUP & SAUCER STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Spring Mountain – Luis Contreras – Dan Vella
2 – God of Love – Rafael Hernandez – Mark Casse
3 – Hidden Honor – Antonio Gallardo – Kevin Attard
4 – Shamateur – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Michael Doyle
5 – Dancin in Da’nile – Shaun Bridgmohan – Gail Cox
6 – Mentoring – Keveh Nicholls – Philip Hall
7 – Stronger Together – Justin Stein – Sid Attard
8 – Fast Feet – Kazushi Kimura – Mark Casse
9 – Brutality (S) – Gary Boulanger – Michael De Paulo
10 – Where’s Neal – David Moran – Dan Vella
11 – Chairman Bob – Patrick Husbands – Kevin Attard
For info on the Best Breeders’ Cup Seminar click HERE
Woodbine Press Release
Photo: Justin Stein and Where’s Neal thunder home to capture the Bull Page Stakes at Woodbine on September 17, 2021. (Michael Burns Photo)