London Tower heads ultra-competitive Woodbine Oaks

June 11, 2015

TORONTO, June 11 – London Tower, Leading Edge and Brooklynsway head an extremely competitive 60th edition of the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, Sunday at Woodbine.
The filly classic, which attracted 10 Canadian-foaled three-year-old fillies carrying 121 pounds over one mile and one-eighth on the Polytrack, will go postward at 5:45 p.m. and will be televised live on TSN, as part of a one and one-half hour special from 4:30 -6:00 p.m. ET. The winner receives $300,000.
In addition, the $150,000 Plate Trial (at 5:10 p.m.), also at one and one-eighth miles on Poly, will also be part of the telecast and features current Queen’s Plate favourites Danzig Moon and Conquest Curlinate, both trained by seven-time Sovereign Award winner Mark Casse. Canada’s most famous horse race, The Queen’s Plate, is scheduled for Sunday, July 5.
London Tower, a daughter of Head Chopper-Mrs. Donaghy, is the 5-2 morning line choice for the Oaks and is owned, trained and was bred by Steve Owens, who would become the first person in the race’s history to do so with a win. She’s been favoured in all four career outings and has won three of them, including two stakes – last year’s Ontario Lassie and this year’s Fury, her only outing this season. Her only loss came in last year’s Princess Elizabeth, when finishing a close third to Oaks rivals Brooklynsway and Shez a Masterpiece.
Jockey Alan Garcia was aboard for the first time when she captured the seven furlong Fury on May 3 by a half-length, putting on a dazzling stretch charge after a slow beginning.
“(She) falls out of the gate,” recalled Owens, who admitted that his plan was to have only one start for his filly prior to the Oaks. “She just broke a little flat-footed because she was fidgety in the gate. We didn’t intend to be on the lead in that race anyway. We thought there was a lot of speed in the race, but a few others took back as well.”
Last week, he chose the unusual step of giving London Tower, who has earned $232,000, her final Oaks workout on the grass, a five furlong spin on June 5 in 1:00 2/5 while breezing over the training turf.
“I worked her last year on the turf and she really enjoyed it,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘Polytrack is a hard surface to continually train on’. So, to get a good workout into her, the turf was a little softer than it had been, it was a tremendous workout. We worked behind a bunch of horses and they were still galloping out and she wanted to get by them at every pole. It was a more forgiving workout and she got a lot out of it.
“She runs good fresh. She has shown us she runs well off a long layoff. I’m not concerned about that (having only had one seven furlong start this year). She’s going to run her race and I hope she’s good enough and fit enough to go a mile and an eighth. Last year, when she ran a mile and a sixteenth, she galloped out a mile and an eighth. In the seven furlong race, she galloped out another quarter of a mile. It’s well within her (the distance), but on any given day, you don’t know which horse is the best horse.”
So what about the pace scenario for this year’s Oaks, since she was on the engine in her two route races last year.
“Well, we’re stretching out and she’s feeling good, so you never know,” said Owens. “We’ll leave that up to the jockey (Alan Garcia) and he’ll pull the trigger when he needs to.”
Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield, who has won three Oaks (Playlist in 1986; Plenty Of Sugar in 1994; Capdiva in 1997), will send out a pair in Leading Edge, the 3-1 second choice, and Internal Bourbon, a 12-1 outsider.
Chiefswood Stable’s homebred Leading Edge, a daughter of Tapit-Essential Edge, is only a one-time winner in six starts, but most recently was a game third to Ol’ Fashion Gal in the open Selene Stakes at one mile and one-sixteenth on May 24. Attfield said he’ll add blinkers to her for the Oaks. Luis Contreras, who won the 2011 Oaks and Plate with Inglorious, rides, while Chiefswood won the 2013 Oaks with the ill-fated Nipissing.
Charles Fipke’s homebred Internal Bourbon, a daughter of his 2008 Plate winner Not Bourbon, has won two of six starts, including a recent allowance route contest on May 22 and will be ridden for the first time by Jesse Campbell.
Owner-trainer John Ross sends out Brooklynsway, who won last year’s rich Princess Elizabeth Stakes, upsetting London Tower. The daughter of Giant Gizmo-Explosive Story is the field’s leading money winner with $398,250, while purchased for less than $9,500 at the Canadian Select Yearling Sale.
Last year, Ross sold Lexie Lou for a significant sum to owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse in the spring and then happily watched her win the Oaks and Plate en route to three Sovereign Awards for the new connections, including Canada’s Horse of the Year.
Brooklynsway, the 4-1 third choice with Emma-Jayne Wilson, has never been worse than fourth in her eight starts, including two wins and comes into the Oaks off a troubled fourth-place finish to London Tower in the Fury.
“I thought the Princess Elizabeth was one of her better races,” said Ross. “Most of the ones we’re running against (on Sunday) were in there. Hopefully, she runs her race.
In the Fury, the filly ran with her head cocked for most of the journey before closing some ground in the stretch.
“We found an abscess in her mouth,” explained Ross. “It was far back in her mouth, so she was unhappy but still ran fourth. So we fixed that up. This is probably the best I’ve seen her coming to a race. Her last two works were as good as I’ve ever seen her work. The last one was in 1:12 4/5, galloped out in (1):26 and 3.”
Trainer Mark Casse, who has won three Oaks (Kimchi in 2006, Sealy Hill in 2007, Lexie Lou in 2014) will send out a quartet of hopefuls. Two of them, Shez a Masterpiece and Galina Point, are owned by Gary Barber, who raced last year’s Oaks and Plate winner Lexie Lou.
Galina Point, the 6-1 fourth choice, most recently won the seven furlong Lady Angela Stakes and has banked $291,900, while taking three of nine starts, including the South Ocean Stakes last year. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez comes in from New York to ride.
Shez a Masterpiece (15-1), a one-time winner in seven starts, was also an excellent second to Brooklynsway in last year’s Princess Elizabeth, then a solid third to colts Decision Day and Nipigon in the Coronation Futurity. She’ll be ridden for the first time by Eurico Rosa da Silva.
Casse also saddles Woodford Racing’s Season Ticket (8-1) and East West Stables’ Tancook (20-1). Season Ticket, a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, broke her maiden on the grass at first asking in January at Gulfstream Park and enters off a fourth-place finish in the Selene, May 24, just two and one-quarter lengths behind winner Ol’ Fashion Gal. She’ll be ridden by Patrick Husbands, a three-time Oaks winner (Kimchi in 2006; Sealy Hill in 2007, Lexie Lou in 2014.)
Tancook is still a maiden after six starts. No maiden has ever won the Oaks. The daughter of Macho Uno will be piloted by Gary Boulanger, who won both the Oaks and Plate in 2001 with Dancethruthedawn.
Completing the field are Bear Stables’ Academic (20-1), who broke her maiden in her only start this year after three outings last year for trainer Reade Baker, who won the 2005 Oaks with Gold Strike. Justin Stein will be aboard. Red River Heidi (20-1), a daughter of 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, makes her Polytrack debut in the Oaks for trainer Jason DaCosta and owner Hawk Enterprise. She’s a two-time winner at Tampa Bay Downs and will be ridden by Fernando De La Cruz.
$500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser
Sunday, June 14, Woodbine Polytrack, One mile and one-eighth
Race 10 Post time: 5:45 p.m. ET, live on TSN

PP/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Morning Line Odds
1/Red River Heidi/Fernando De La Cruz/Jason DaCosta/20-1
2/Internal Bourbon/Jesse Campbell/Roger Attfield/12-1
3/Season Ticket/Patrick Husbands/Mark Casse/8-1
4/Galina Point/John Velazquez/Mark Casse/6-1
5/Brooklynsway/Emma-Jayne Wilson/John Ross/4-1
6/London Tower/Alan Garcia/Steve Owens/5-2
7/Tancook/Gary Boulanger/Mark Casse/20-1
8/Leading Edge/Luis Contreras/Roger Attfield/3-1
9/Academic/Justin Stein/Reade Baker/20-1
10/Shez a Masterpiece/Eurico Rosa da Silva/Mark Casse/15-1
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