TORONTO, September 14 – Hawkbill, a Group 1 winner who is based in England, looms as the horse to beat in a field of eight for for Sunday’s Northern Dancer, a second Grade 1 feature on the Ricoh Woodbine Mile card.
The $300,000 Northern Dancer, a 1 ½-mile turf race for three-year-olds and upward, is the major local prep for the Grade 1, $800,000 Pattison Canadian International over the same course and distance here October 15.
Asssuming all goes well on Saturday, Hawkbill will be staying for that race.
“That’s been the plan,” said Sophie Chretien, head traveling lass for Hawkbill’s trainer Charlie Appleby.
Hawkbill, a Kentucky-bred four-year-old colt, races for Godolphin. His last five starts have come at 1 ½ miles and include victories in the Group 2 Princess of Wales’s at Newmarket over good going and the Group 3 Aston Park over soft ground at Newbury.
In his last start, Hawkbill was beaten a length as the runner-up in the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Berlin at Hoppegarten. Dschingis Secret, the winner there, came back to capture the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp.
“He goes every ground, but his best ground is very soft to soft,” said Chretien. “Fast ground is not going to help him but he’s a classy horse.
“He likes to go on front,” said Chretien. “But mainly, he likes to be in his rhythm. He’ll settle in behind.”
On Wednesday morning, Hawkbill was out for a gallop over the E.P. Taylor Turf course and although not scheduled to be timed his closing quarter of :24.40 was fast enough to make the work tab.
“He worked well,” said exercise rider Wayne Hogg. “He was fit and well before we left.”
Hawkbill has displayed a forward style in the vast majority of his races and seems likely to find himself on the engine here.
Colm O’Donoghue will ride Hawkbill for the first time but is familiar with the E.P. Taylor layout as he guided Joshua Tree to victory in the 2010 Pattison Canadian International and came back to finish third in the race with Treasure Beach the following season.
Hawkhill drew the outside post and will be the 123-pound topweight.
Messi, invading from his Fair Hill base for trainer Graham Motion, will be seeking his second score in as many trips to Woodbine after winning the Grade 2 Sky Classic at 1 1/4 miles on the grass last August.
The six-year-old, bred in Germany by owners Gestut Brummerhof, is winless in five starts since then but closed strongly to finish a close third under allowance terms in his last appearance July 21 over 1 3/8 miles of turf.
“He ran really well, in what was kind of a prep for the (August 26) Sword Dancer,” said Motion. "I thought he should have won that day — they just didn’t quite get there. Coming back in the Sword Dancer was a little too quick for him. He’s an older horse, and he just needs a little bit more time between races.
“He ran really well up there last year, and the fact that this is a Grade 1 is appealing, since the owners have the family. Jose Ortiz Jr., who rode Messi for the first time in that most recent Saratoga appearance, retains the mount on the 121-pound second-highweight who will begin from the four-hole.
“I felt lucky that Jose was able to ride him up there,” said Motion. “That was very appealing as well.”
Noble Thought (Patrick Husbands, 119), conditioned by Malcolm Pierce, could have the best shot of the six locals rounding out the field.
The four-year-old colt finished a closing second behind the Motion-trained invader Can’thelpbelieving in the Sky Classic, run at 1 3/8 miles this year, in his best effort to date.
Trainer Kevin Attard has a pair for the Northern Dancer in Camp Creek (Rafael Hernandez, 119) and Pumpkin Rumble (Jesse Campbell, 119).
Camp Creek won the Breeders’ Stakes, the 1 ½ mile turf race which is the third leg of Canada’s Triple Crown for Canadian-bred three-year-olds, when trained by Rachel Halden last year.
He then ended sixth, but beaten just 5.5 lengths, in the Northern Dancer before finishing off the board in his final start of the season.
Christophe Clement was the trainer for Camp Creek’s only start this season, which was a ninth-place finish under allowance terms at Belmont back on May 3, and the gelding will be making his first appearance for Attard here.
Pumpkin Rumble has finished third in three consecutive graded turf stakes here beginning with the 1.5 mile Singspiel, continuing in the 1.25 mile Nijinsky, and concluding in the Sky Classic.
Johnny Bear (Luis Contreras, 115) became a stakes winner over the course and distance when scoring impressively in the Halton, a yearling sales stakes here Aug. 30.
Rounding out the field will be Seeking Albert (David Moran, 112), who finished a troubled fourth in this year’s Breeders’, and English Illusion, coming off a second-place finish in the Halton.
The field for the $300,000 Northern Dancer Stakes is listed below in post position order. First race post time for Saturday’s action-packed Ricoh Woodbine Mile card is set for 1 p.m.
$300,000 Northern Dancer Stakes (Grade 1)
PP – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1. English Illusion – Eurico Rosa da Silva – Daniel Vella
2. Camp Creek – Rafael Hernandez – Kevin Attard
3. Noble Thought – Patrick Husbands – Malcolm Pierce
4. Messi – Jose Ortiz – Graham Motion
5. Pumpkin Rumble – Jesse Campbell – Kevin Attard
6. Seeking Albert – David Moran – Michael DePaulo
7. Johnny Bear – Luis Contreras – Ashlee Brnjas
8. Hawkbill – Colm Donoghue – Charlie Appleby