Wentru (inside) and Who’s the Star win the G3 Valedictory (Michael Burns)
By Chris Lomon – Woodbine Communications
TORONTO— Wentru and Who’s the Star shared the winner’s circle in a compelling running of the Grade 3 $155,900 Valedictory Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.
It was a tale of two different trips that would see a pair of 4-year-olds arrive at the same destination.
Wentru, at 42-1, was put on the lead by Rafael Hernandez at the outset of the 1 ½-mile Tapeta event for 3-year-olds and up, while Emma-Jayne Wilson, aboard Who’s the Star, settled the multiple graded stakes winner into tenth of 12 runners early.
Ahead by one length after a quarter-mile in :24.85, Wentru was followed by the trio of Angelou, British Royalty and Collective Force, while Who’s the Star, saddled with post 12, remained off the rail and in tenth.
It was status quo for the top four through a half in :49.47, as Who’s the Star still only had two rivals behind him. Reaching three-quarters in 1:15.49, Wentru, who came into the Valedictory riding a three-race win streak, was still running comfortably on the lead.
As the field rounded the turn for home, Wentru began to increase his lead, and was still 1 ¼-lengths on top at Robert Geller’s stretch call, while Who’s the Star began to make up ground to the far outside and moved into third.
With the wire drawing closer, Who’s the Star was in full flight, as Wentru dug in gamely at the rail, the battle culminating in a dead-heat in a final time of 2:31.10. English Conqueror finished third, just a neck behind the winning pair. Novo Sol (BRZ), making his second straight start at Woodbine, was fourth.
It was the stakes debut for the Martin Drexler-trained Wentru, now 6-1-2 from 19 career starts for owner TEC Racing. The 4-year-old son of Tourist, bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation, is 4-0-1 from eight starts on the campaign.
“He relaxed,” said Hernandez. “I wanted to get him more relaxed, but he was on the bridle all the way. It helped that no one went head-to-head with me. I was able to get the jump before everybody. I know we were slowing, and if I can get the jump, I know he was going to do his job. We got the dead-heat, but he ran unbelievable.”
Who’s the Star, trained by dual hall of fame conditioner Mark Casse, notched his third straight win, all graded stakes, with today’s win.
Owned by M Racing Group, LLC, the 4-year-old son of Tonalist stamped himself as a top contender for Canada’s champion older horse honours.
Bred by Oscar and John R. Penn, Who’s the Star is 7-1-2 from 17 starts overall and 6-0-0 from 11 starts in 2022.
“It was a different kind of pace setup for this race, a mile and a half you get a lot more horses coming from well off it,” said Wilson. “I thought there would be a lot more pace up front. I never got over to the rail and I needed to get going. There were a lot of horses in the race. He’s got that wicked kick, so I swung him to the outside and got him going as fast as I could.
“This is what we’re here for, to get on fast horses, and he’s a really fast horse,” Wilson continued. “He’s been wonderful to partner with. He absolutely, 100 percent deserves the congratulations at the end of the year, the year-end awards.”
Wentru paid $30.30, $23.90 and $16.40, while Who’s the Star returned $3.40, $3.60 and $3.10.