TORONTO, September 16, 2021 – Mutamakina, a smart winner when invading from Saratoga for the Dance Smartly Stakes, was expected to be the one to beat in Saturday’s Grade 2 Canadian Stakes Presented by the Japan Racing Association.
But while that proposed return will not transpire just yet, the Christophe Clement stable will be sending an able substitute in La Dragontea, an up-and-coming sort owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Rebecca Hillen.
A field of five fillies and mares will go postward in the Grade 2 Canadian, a 1 1/8 mile turf race, which offers a purse of $250,000.
La Dragontea, a private purchase after beginning her career in England, comes in off a sharp second-level allowance victory over 1 3/16 miles of yielding going at Saratoga.
The filly had scored over 1 ¼-miles of good Belmont turf in her North American debut.
“She’s doing well,” said Miguel Clement, son and assistant to Christophe Clement, from his Saratoga base. “She’s looking for some black type and this looks like an ideal spot for her, to be honest. The filly’s been a great addition to the stable and we’re looking forward to seeing her run.”
La Dragontea’s only U.S. stakes venture came two starts back in Delaware Park’s Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial, where she finished a troubled fourth over 1 3/8 miles of soft going.
“It may have been a little touch too far for her as well,” said Clement. “It was also on yielding turf, and unfortunately she may have been a little bit of a victim of lack of racing luck.”
Clement believes the nature of the E.P. Taylor Turf Course will suit La Dragontea.
“I think Woodbine’s turf course is a great turf course,” he said. “The long wide turns, the long stretch…it usually gives a fair chance to everyone.”
The presence of jockey Joel Rosario, who is coming off a wildly successful Kentucky Downs meeting and has been aboard for La Dragontea’s two New York wins, adds to the appeal of the four-year-old English-bred.
Christophe Clement won the Canadian with Calista back in 2002.
Locally-based Merveilleux and Court Return, third and fourth, respectively, while experiencing less than ideal trips in the Dance Smartly over 1 ¼ miles of firm turf, will be looking hold the fort against the shipper.
Kevin Attard trains Merveilleux, an Ontario-bred four-year-old owned by Minnesotans Al and Bill Ulwelling, who was turning in her best effort of the season in her third appearance.
Purchased at auction for $150,000 as a two-year-old, Merveilleux ended her sophomore campaign on a high note with victories in Woodbine’s Wonder Where over 1 ¼-miles of turf and Ontario Damsel at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
“She’s a much bigger, stronger horse this year,” said Attard. “She’s really kind of matured and developed, from three to four. It was a little disappointing with her first couple of races this year because she had trained so well in the springtime. With the physical change in her, I figured she was going to be up for a really stellar campaign.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know if maybe I had her a little bit over the top because of the delay in racing due to COVID. Her second race maybe wasn’t too bad, it was a mile, and the distance compromised her. But then her last race she put it all together and she ran really well.”
Attard has mild concerns over Saturday’s cutback in distance.
“Obviously, maybe with another furlong further it would bode better for us,” said the trainer. “Ideally we’d like it to be a little further but I don’t think it’s the end of the world for her.”
Attard won back-to-back runnings of the Canadian with Starship Jubilee in 2018 and 2019.
Court Return, owned and bred by Ivan Dalos, is a half-sister to Grade 1 stakes winners and full brothers Channel Maker and Johnny Bear, and almost earned that distinction herself when beaten just a neck as the rallying runner-up in last year’s E.P. Taylor Stakes at 1 ¼ miles on the eponymous course.
After failing to find her best stride in her next four starts south of the border for trainer Josie Carroll, Court Return finished second when shortening up to a mile on the local inner turf course and then finished strongly to be beaten just a over a length for all the money in the Dance Smartly.
The five-year-old earlier had finished third in last year’s Canadian after winning the restricted Eternal Search Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the inner course.
Locally-based Our Secret Agent and Barkin round out the field.
Our Secret Agent, supplemented to the Canadian at a cost of $5,000, which includes the regular entry fee, is a very consistent four-year-old filly owned by Gary Barber and trained by Mark Casse.
Bred in Kentucky, Our Secret Agent has won two of 12 starts but has yet to finish worse than third with six seconds and four thirds to her credit. She has placed in four consecutive graded stakes here, including a two-back third-place finish when making her turf debut in the one-mile Nassau.
Barkin comes into the Canadian in winning form but will be tested for class while making her first stakes appearance.
Conditioned by Catherine Day Phillips, Barkin won her maiden at 1 ¼-miles on the E.P. Taylor in her fourth career start last fall. The New York-bred four-year-old, a homebred who races for Willow Pond Farm, returned last month to annex her first allowance condition over 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
The Canadian Stakes also is the second leg of this year’s Ladies of the Lawn series, which began with the Dance Smartly and concludes with the Grade 1, $600,00 E.P Taylor Stakes at 1 ¼ miles on October 21.
Points are awarded on a 10-7-5-3-2 basis for the first five finishers with other runners earning one point.
Prize money for the owners will be $50,000 for the top points-earner, with $15,000 earmarked for second and $10,000 for third.
In concert with the series, Woodbine is supporting Rethink Breast Cancer. From August 22 to October 17, supporters can bid on specially designed pillows created from new saddle towels featuring the Rethink Breast Cancer logo. Proceeds from the online auction will be donated to the charity.
$250,000 Canadian Stakes (Grade 2)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Court Return – Luis Contreras – Josie Carroll
2 – Our Secret Agent – Antonio Gallardo – Mark Casse
3 – La Dragontea – Joel Rosario – Christophe Clement
4 – Barkin – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Catherine Day Phillips
5 – Merveilleux – Rafael Hernandez – Kevin Attard