TORONTO, May 17 – Chiefswood Stable homebred Nipissing, undefeated through four local starts as a juvenile, makes her homecoming in Sunday’s $150,000 Grade 3 Selene Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Rachel Halden, the Niigon bay was a force to be reckoned with in 2012 winning all four starts, including stakes scores in the Princess Elizabeth and South Ocean, by a combined 10 lengths under regular rider Steve Bahen.
Nipissing wintered in Florida at Palm Meadows and made her three-year-old debut on April 6 in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, finishing a solid sixth behind runaway winner Emollient.
Halden has breezed the long-striding filly four times since returning to Woodbine preparing for the 1 1/6-mile ‘Poly’ stake.
"She’s in great shape. I’m really happy with her coming up to this race," said Halden. "She’s a special filly. There’s no question. She does everything so easy."
Despite being defeated 11 1/2-lengths in the Ashland, it’s worth noting that Emollient won the prestigious race by nine lengths over Tuttipaesi. Only a nose, a neck, a length and another neck separated the fillies that finished third through seventh.
"I thought it was a very solid effort," said Halden. "In an ideal world, I wouldn’t come back in a Grade 1 off a layoff, but she’d run through all her conditions as a two-year-old and I was limited in where I could run her. The Ashland was on her proven surface and distance, so it was hard not to do it when I needed to get a race into her."
Based on the sharp works since returning to Woodbine, including a bullet five-panel effort in 1:00.40 on May 7, it appears that Nipissing is relishing her return to Woodbine’s Polytrack.
"It was a tough race but she’s come out of it very well and moved forward off the race," said Halden. "She’s worked very strong here and I feel good about where she’s at going into this race. She’d always thrown solid works here last year and she’s doing the same this year."
The long term goal for Nipissing is to race in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks (June 9), presented by Budweiser. A try at the $1-million Queen’s Plate (July 7) isn’t out of the question.
Halden believes Nipissing will only get better the further she goes.
"This filly, she just acts like she wants to go further anyway. She gallops out strong and always seems to be looking for more ground," said Halden. "The good thing about this filly is that in the afternoon she will relax and she’s very rateable."
Nipissing has hooked a tough field in her homecoming that includes graded stakes winner Spring Venture and a host of well-bred fillies on the improve.
Spring Venture, trained by Mark Casse for Gary Barber and Stoneway Farm LLC, won three of four starts as a juvenile including graded scores in the G2 Natalma, over a yielding E.P. Taylor Turf Course, and G3 Mazarine, when routing on the Woodbine main.
Last time out, Spring Venture finished a non-threatening eighth in the Ashland. Patrick Husbands gets the call.
Both Nipissing and Spring Venture will carry 124lbs on Sunday, while the remainder of the eight-horse field carries 117lbs.
Amerman Racing LLC’s Coffee Clique, trained by Brian Lynch, was a driving winner at first asking in her only jaunt over the Woodbine ‘Poly’ last year. The Medaglia d’Oro bay has picked up one win and a second through four subsequent starts at Gulfstream. Luis Contreras, aboard for the maiden score, will ride.
Leigh Court, by Grand Slam out of the French Deputy mare Padmore, is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Barracks Road. Trained by Josie Carroll, the Eugene Melnyk homebred wintered at the Fair Grounds where she broke her maiden. The dark bay won in her Woodbine debut, a two-length score on April 28 when travelling seven furlongs. Justin Stein, who swept last weekend’s stakes, will pilot Leigh Court.
Overheard, a Pin Oak Stable homebred, trained by Malcolm Pierce has never been out of the money compiling a record of 2-1-2 through five starts. The Macho Uno miss broke her maiden second time out at Woodbine in a seven furlong ‘Poly’ sprint. After wintering at the Fair Grounds, where she finished third in a turf stake, Overheard tried her luck in the Grade 3 Appalachian, a one-mile turf tilt, finishing second at odds of 10-1. Eurico Rosa da Silva will pilot the filly on her Woodbine return.
Thats Our Princess, a Gustav Schickendanz homebred trained by Mike Keogh, enters the Selene off an eye-popping 4 1/4-length maiden score on May 4 under jockey Luis Contreras. By Curlin, out of Princess Ruckus, the bay filly is a half-sister to speedy stakes winner Vibank. She’ll make her two-turn debut under Jesse Campbell as Contreras guides Coffee Clique.
Takeyourbreathaway and Fun in D’Sun complete a competitive field.
The Selene is carded as Race 8 on Sunday’s 10-race card. First post time is slated for 1 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on the card via HorsePlayer Interactive.
FIELD FOR THE SELENE STAKES
POST / HORSE / JOCKEY / TRAINER
1 / Takeyourbreathaway / Patrick Husbands / Mark Casse
2 / Nipissing / Steve Bahen / Rachel Halden
3 / Spring Venture / Patrick Husbands / Mark Casse
4 / Overheard / Eurico Rosa da Silva / Malcolm Pierce
5 / Leigh Court / Justin Stein / Josie Carroll
6 / Thats Our Princess / Jesse Campbell / Mike Keogh
7 / Fun in D’ Sun / Omar Moreno / Laurie Silvera
8 / Coffee Clique / Luis Contreras / Brian Lynch