TORONTO, November 21, 2020 – Following up her three-length Wonder Where win, Merveilleux turned in another dazzling performance in the $150,000 Ontario Damsel Stakes for Ontario-bred three-year-old fillies on Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack.
With Rafael Hernandez aboard, the Kevin Attard trainee stalked the duelling front-runners before launching her winning bid three-wide in the final turn of the 1-1/16-mile main track stakes event.
Avie’s Samurai left sharply and darted to the lead with Justleaveitalone joining her on top to trade blows through fractions of :24.91, :48.68 and 1:26.61. Reigning divisional champion and Woodbine Oaks winner Curlin’s Voyage attempted to circle the pacemakers approaching three-quarters, but the even-money favourite posed no threat down the lane.
At the top of the stretch, Merveilleux exploded with late pace and drew off by 3-1/4 lengths in 1:44.37, with Avie’s Samurai staying for second over the late-rallying Afleet Katherine, also trained by Attard. Ann of Cleves, Curlin’s Voyage and Justleaveitalone completed the order of finish.
“I just wanted to make sure to get the right move, at the right time,” said Hernandez. “I didn’t want to get it too early and then flatten out in the lane, but everything worked good in the whole race. We sat behind the speed horse, relaxed good and everything worked perfect today.”
Bred by Mike Carroll, the daughter of Paynter out of Breech Inlet now boasts three wins and third (in the Woodbine Oaks) from five sophomore starts for owners Al and Bill Ulwelling. The consistent filly has hit the board in eight of her 11 races lifetime.
“She was kind of misfortunate earlier in the year to have some rough trips and some bad racing luck, but she’s really put it together lately and I’m just happy to see it for the owners,” said Attard, via a video call after watching the race from home.
Merveilleux’s late-season stakes success puts her in the conversation for divisional Sovereign Award honours.
“The championship is not based on one or two months of the year, it’s over the season, and she’s obviously gotten better as the season’s gone on and she’s at the top of the division right now,” noted Attard. “We’re just happy that she’s progressed like we wanted her to and hopefully she turns out to be a nice four-year-old.”
Merveilleux paid $6.10 to win as the 2-1 second choice.