TORONTO, September 14 — Count Alexander caught the cognoscenti napping in his opener here, scoring a handy four-length victory over six furlongs of turf at 14-1. On Sunday, the “Count” could be up to the challenge as he faces a solid contingent of three U.S. shippers and four other locals in the Grade 2, $200,000 Summer Stakes at one mile on the turf.
The Summer also is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race with any Breeders’ Cup-nominated winner entitled to a fees-paid berth in the Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.
Count Alexander, a Kentucky-bred son of the extremely popular but recently deceased Scat Daddy, had trained at Gulfstream this winter before shipping north to begin his career.
“I loved the way he ran; he did everything I asked him to do,” said Slade Callaghan, who rode Count Alexander for trainer Mary Lightner in his Aug. 27 debut.
“And, he galloped out brilliantly. I don’t expect the mile to be any problem at all with the way he galloped out.”
Count Alexander’s presence in Toronto is due to a grand plan in which Michael Lightner purchases horses for owners David and Holly Wilson, Southern California residents who do most of their racing in that state.
Lightner breaks the yearlings in Florida and the fact that his daughter, Mary, is at Woodbine this year was reason enough to ship the “Count” to Woodbine before his eventual relocation to California.
Now, Count Alexander may join the Wilsons with a guaranteed berth in the Breeders’ Cup.
Admiralty Pier, based here with trainer Barbara Minshall, also is one-for-one following a smart front-running score here at 6 ½ furlongs on the turf under returning rider Luis Contreras.
“He was very good; we’ve liked him right from the get-go,” said Minshall. “He’s just a little green. I would have liked to have run him again, but I’ve had no opportunity.”
Minshall believes that getting the mile will be no problem for Admiralty Pier.
“He’ll be perfect,” said the trainer. “He’s by English Channel out of a Kitten’s Joy mare. I think, going down the road, distance should work in his favour.”
Unclaimed Domain, trained by Graham Motion, heads a group of four colts invading from the United States.
Coming off a closing third in Saratoga’s Grade 3 With Anticipation at 1 1/6 miles on the grass, Unclaimed Domain had won over the same distance and surface in his second outing after debuting with a closing fourth-place finish at Laurel at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf.
“I don’t think he’s done too much wrong,” said Motion, who conditions the Animal Kingdom colt.
“He got left a little bit at the gate last time out, and was only beaten just over a length, and I feel like he’s done well in between.
“Even when he sprinted the first time out he ran respectably. We knew he was more of a two-turn horse, like all the Animal Kingdoms."
Untamed Domain will be racing with blinkers for the first time in the Summer.
“I just felt like he’s kind of created his own trouble,” said Motion. “I thought the blinkers might help him pay attention a little bit.”
Untaimed Domain will be ridden by Jose Bravo for the first time.
Hemp Hemp Hurray, El Dulce and Empirically are others shipping from south of the border.
The only stakes winner in the field, Hemp Hemp Hurray smoked in Monmouth’s Tyro over 5 1/2 furlongs of good turf to keep his record perfect after an impressive six-furlong maiden turf debut at Belmont.
John Velazquez, in the iron for the New York score, returns on the Ontario-bred for trainer Wesley Ward.
Todd Pletcher is coming off his 13th Saratoga training title and El Dulce contributed to that total with a first-out victory at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. In a subsequent try there, El Dulce ran second in the 5 ½ furlong Skidmore, which was taken off the turf and run over a muddy main track.
Jose Ortiz Jr. takes over from Velazquez here.
Rounding out the local contingent will be Differential and Follow My Lead.
Trainer Mark Casse sent out the winners of three consecutive Summer Stakes beginning in 2013 and will be looking to get back on target with Differential in Sunday’s renewal.
“It looks like the race will be fairly tough,” said Casse.
Differential had been well-beaten over six furlongs of yielding in his opener but rebounded with a convincing score on six furlongs of going before ending last of six when trying Tapeta for the first time in the 5 ½ furlong Clarendon for Canadian-breds.
Follow My Lead has two seconds to show for three starts with one of those a 2 ¼ length defeat by Differential.
All starters will carry 122 pounds and all excepting Follow My Lead are Breeders’ Cup eligible in the Summer, which goes as the sixth race on the program.
$200,000 Summer Stakes (Grade 2) – Race 6
PP – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1. Untamed Domain – Joe Bravo – Graham Motion
2. Differential – Gary Boulanger – Mark Casse
3. Follow My Lead – Emma Jayne-Wilson – Nicholas Nosowenko
4. Admiralty Pier – Luis Contreras – Barbara Minshall
5. El Dulce – Jose Ortiz Jr. – Todd Pletcher
6. Hemp Hemp Hurray – John Velazquez – Wesley Ward
7. Count Alexander – Slade Callaghan – Mary Lightner
8. Empirically – Joel Rosario – Roy Lerman