TORONTO, July 27 – Albert Frassetto’s Can’thelpbelieving headlines Saturday’s co-featured Grade 2 $175,000 Nijinsky Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Graham Motion, the six-year-old Duke of Marmalade gelding arrives at the 1 1/4-mile turf event from a string of tilts in graded races across the U.S. including an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, a fourth in the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth Park and a narrow head loss in the Grade 1 United Nations over 1 3/8-miles on the Monmouth green.
"I feel like I threw him in the deep end a little bit on Derby day (in the Turf Classic) when I ran him in the Grade 1 and the ground came up very soft which I’m not sure he really cared for," said Motion. "We took a step back and got him into the graded race at Monmouth (Red Bank), but I always had the United Nations in mind and I thought he ran really well.
"He was unlucky not to win it," continued Motion of the United Nations effort. "It wasn’t a perfect trip, but I must say that inside the sixteenth pole I thought he was a winner. It was a bit of a tough beat. He’s a horse that can step up when it counts and he’s been a really cool customer."
The bay gelding holds significant back class from his 2016 campaign including a third in the Grade 1 Man O’ War at Belmont Park and a solid fourth in the Grade 2 Bowling Green that set up a Grade 3 win in the Cliff Hanger at Monmouth Park.
On Saturday, the well-travelled Irish-bred will make his Woodbine debut under James Graham and his style may suit the expansive E.P. Taylor Turf Course which is 1 1/2-miles around with the longest stretch run in North America.
"He’s a European style horse and very adaptable, but he also ran really well on the oval at Monmouth so I’m not sure if it will necessarily benefit him but I don’t think it would hurt him either," said Motion. "He definitely holds his own in these races and I think he’s a mile and a quarter, mile and three-eighths type horse. This race seemed like a really good fit."
A compact field of five includes local graded stakes winners Dragon Bay and Bangkok.
Dragon Bay, trained by Stuart Simon, is a four-time winner from 17 starts including victories in the English Channel Stakes at Belmont Park over soft turf and a May 17 score in the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes on the Woodbine main when knocking off Champion older horse Are You Kidding Me. Gary Boulanger retains the mount.
Bangkok made the grade last December with a score in the Grade 3 Valedictory Stakes contested at 1 3/4-miles on the Woodbine main. The six-year-old Street Hero gelding, trained by Phil Gracey, is a versatile sort with a record of 3-1-1 from 11 tries on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course including a score at the 1 1/4-mile Nijinsky distance when launching his 2017 campaign on June 9 in an optional claiming event. Emma-Jayne Wilson has the call.
Pumpkin Rumble and Tour De Force complete the field.
The Grade 2 Nijinsky is slated as Race 6 on Saturday’s 10-race card which also features the Grade 3 Royal North Stakes (Race 8). First post time is 1PM. Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com.
FIELD FOR THE GRADE 2 $175,000 NIJINSKY STAKES
POST / HORSE / JOCKEY / TRAINER / ML ODDS
1 / Can’thelpbelieving / James / Graham Motion / 1-1
2 / Dragon Bay / Gary Boulanger/ Stuart Simon / 5-2
3 / Pumpkin Rumble / Jesse Campbell / Kevin Attard / 10-1
4 / Bangkok / Emma-Jayne Wilson / Phil Gracey / 4-1
5 / Tour de Force / Patrick Husbands / Mark Casse / 6-1