TORONTO, September 11, 2019 – Old Persian, who impressed in taking the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March, brings his sizable turf talents to Woodbine for Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes.
Owned by Godolphin and trained by Charlie Appleby, Old Persian, a four-year-old son of Dubawi, boasts a record of 8-1-2 from 15 starts, along with more than $4 million in purse earnings.
The bay colt was at the top of his game in Dubai earlier this year, winning a pair of 1 ½-mile turf events, the aforementioned Dubai Sheema Classic on March 30, and the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold three weeks earlier.
“I think he has come of age and tonight was his way of telling us so,” said Appleby in the aftermath of the Classic. “He’s the son of Dubawi and he was out to show this as well. I liked the way he took full advantage of the gap when he got it. After that, there was no catching him. This is one of the most fantastic runs that he has come up with and we couldn’t have asked anything more from him.”
Now, the British-bred will go after another high profile victory, this time in the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer Turf, a key event on the road to the Grade 1 $800,000 Pattison Canadian International (October 12, at Woodbine).
Head lass Sophie Chretien flew to Toronto with Old Persian, who has taken well to his new surroundings.
“The trip was perfect,” said Chretien. “It was a good flight, he was relaxed, and everything went fine on that side. He settled in very nicely, and he went on the track on Monday and Tuesday, just to get used to the place. So far, so good. He seems quite happy with himself.”
Making his debut at Newmarket in August 2017, resulting in a third-place finish, Old Persian went on to record back-to-back wins, at Chelmsford and Newmarket, respectively. It was one of three occasions that Old Persian notched consecutive scores.
Most recently, he finished third in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin over a mile and a half at Hoppegarten, Germany, on August 11.
Appleby commented: “A bit more pace in the race would definitely have helped Old Persian today. He has run steadily and travelled well into the race but just got found out for a bit of toe at the finish. However, it was his first run for a couple of months and it was a nice performance.”
His connections will be hoping for a repeat of his Dubai experiences when he makes his first appearance on Canadian turf.
“It’s a long straight to finish, and that will suit him,” said Chretien. “Here in Canada, I think it will suit his style of running. He does like some pace. It’s a big, galloping track. I think he will like that. In his last race in Germany, I was not there, but I watched it on TV after. That day – he has some turn of foot, don’t get me wrong – but you need some pace for that. He probably would not have beaten the winner, but he could have run a bit better in a way, I think.”
As his form suggests, the connections of Northern Dancer starters will no doubt need to keep an eye on Old Persian on Saturday.
His Godolphin team always does the same with the handsome colt when they’re around his stall.
“You have to watch him,” noted Chretien. “He’s not mean or anything, but he’s a colt, and a bit of a boy. You have to be careful.”
Cooler Mike, trained and co-owned by Nick Nosowenko, sports a record of 4-4-4 from 16 starts. The four-year-old son of Giant Gizmo finished third in last year’s Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes (first and second legs of the Canadian Triple Crown). He comes into the Northern Dancer off a win the Halton Stakes on August 28 at Woodbine.
A five-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, Kentucky-bred Focus Group will look for a repeat of his performance in this year’s edition of the Grade 2 Pan American, contested at Gulfstream Park on March 30. The dark bay, trained by Chad Brown, eked out a nose victory in the 1 1/2-mile turf event. He sports a 5-0-3 mark from 15 career races.
Sierra Farm’s Nessy, a six-year-old gelded son of Flower Alley, fashions a record of 4-6-8 from 31 starts. The Ian Wilkes trainee was third to Woodbine-based Tiz a Slam in the Grade 3 Louisville Stakes on May 18 at Churchill Downs. His most recent win came on April 20 at Keeneland, in a 1 1/8-mile turf race.
Ultra-consistent Sir Sahib, a Stronach Stables’ homebred, has 10 top-three finishes from 13 starts, including two wins. After winning an allowance race to launch his 2019 campaign, the four-year-old son of Fort Larned finished third in the Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes and second in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes, all run at Woodbine.
Tiz a Slam, who finished sixth in last year’s Northern Dancer, rolls into this year’s running of the Grade 1 event on a three-race win streak. Trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, and bred in Ontario by owner Chiefswood Stable, the five-year-old son of Tiznow took the Grade 3 Louisville on May 18, the Grade 3 Singspiel on June 22, and the Grade 2 Nijinsky on July 28.
The Northern Dancer Turf is slated as race 10 on Saturday’s 12-race card, following the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Grade 1). First post is 1:05 p.m.
Fans can also watch and wager via HPIbet.com.
$300,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (Grade 1)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Old Persian – Jamie Spencer – Charlie Appleby
2 – Cooler Mike – Patrick Husbands – Nick Nosowenko
3 – Focus Group – Joel Rosario – Chad Brown
4 – Nessy – Luis Saez – Ian Wilkes
5 – Sir Sahib – Luis Contreras – Kevin Attard
6 – Tiz a Slam – Steven Bahen – Roger Attfield