TORONTO, July 2—Green Mask punched his ticket for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with a sharp two-length score in Sunday’s $250,000 Highlander Stakes.
The Grade 2 Highlander, a six-furlong turf stakes, was run as a ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for the first time. The Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will be run over five furlongs at Del Mar this year. The first horse to earn an automatic spot in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint this year was the 6-year-old gelding Chautauqua (AUS), who won the Darley TJ Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick in Australia on April 1.
“A big reason for coming was the ‘Win and You’re In’ program,” said trainer Brad Cox, who was registering first win at Woodbine. “It worked out well. There was a little concern with running him back in 22 days but he breezed Monday at Belmont. He had a great breeze, came out of it in good order so we thought we would give him a shot.”
Green Mask, owned by Abdullah Saeed Almaddah, was sent off at 4-1 when finishing second in last year’s Highlander but made no mistakes as the 3-5 choice this time around.
With Javier Castellano in the irons for the Highlander, Green Mask settled back off the pace as Commute led by a length through a quarter in :22.2 and by 1 1/2 lengths as he hit the half in :44.66. Don Camillo stalked from second with Sweet Grass Creek in third and Commend settling in fourth.
Jockey Javier Castellano had settled Green Mask in fifth place early and did not ask his mount for his his best until the field was well into the final turn. Green Mask responded with an explosive move between horses which carried him past Commute just past the furlong grounds and on to a decisive victory in a final time of 1:07.59.
“He is a very straightforward horse and he’s learning every single race,” said Castllano
Calgary Cat, the 4.75-1 third second choice, trailed the field as expected into the stretch but his expected late charge fell short on this occasion and he had to settle for second money. Commute, 4.90-1 third choice, held a half-length lead as he reached the eigth pole but ended another length back in third. Commend raced evenly to finish fourth, with Noholdingbackbear, Don Camillo and Sweet Grass Creek completing the order of finish.
Green Mask would be making his third consecutive appearance in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after finishing a close fifth over 6 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita last year and a closer third when the race was run at Keeneland at five furlongs in 2014.
Green Mask returned $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10 and topped a 4-6 exacta with Calgary Cat ($3.30, $2.50) worth $10.50. The 4-6-1 trifecta with Commute ($2.60) paid $21.40 and the 4-6-1-7 superfecta ending with Commend was worth $37.80 for $1.