TORONTO, July 27 – Skylander Girl will be looking for her third straight victory in Saturday’s $125,000 Grade 3 Royal North Stakes.
The six-furlong turf stakes for fillies and mares three years old and up is scheduled as race eight on the 10-race program, which also features the $175,000 Nijinsky Grade II Stakes (race six). First race post time is 1 p.m.
Skylander Girl heads into the Royal North following consecutive wins, including a 1 ¼-length victory on the turf in the $100,000 Zadracarta Stakes on July 1, clocked in a swift 1:21.71 for seven furlongs.
Owner/trainer Alexander Patykewich is confident his mare can continue her good run of form.
"I think she’s going to break the track record," said Patykewich. "I just hope we don’t get any more rain. This is the best she’s ever been since I’ve had her and I got her as a baby."
Purchased for $3,500 as a yearling at the Keeneland Breeding Stock Sale, the six-year-old Stroll-Heliotrope mare has earned six wins in 36 career starts and just over $700,000 in purses, but was lightly raced last season. Making just two appearances in 2016, she hit the board in a pair of Grade 3 stakes events at Woodbine.
"She got hurt last year. I only ran her twice and then retired her," explained Patykewich. "I took her down to Keeneland and I was going to sell her but I didn’t get my reserve so I took her back."
Patykewich is hoping to add to Skylander Girl’s accolades before this fall’s Keeneland sale.
"This year I’m trying to stay short with her (sprinting) and give her a month between races," he said. "I just want to break the $1-million mark before she goes back to Keeneland this fall."
Skylander Girl is the 5-2 morning line favourite in the Royal North and will leave from the outside post 10, with jockey Rafael Hernandez retaining the mount.
To win the Royal North, Skylander Girl will have to topple an accomplished field that includes multiple graded stakes winner Southern Ring, whose latest conquest was the Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes in late-April for trainer Malcolm Pierce and Woodbine’s top jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva. Sent off as the 6-5 favourite in the seven-furlong Zadracarta, she set the early pace before tiring in the final eighth of a mile.
The field also includes the six-furlong turf track record holder Kasuga, who set the mark that Skylander Girl will be looking to beat of 1:06.88 in a $50,000 claimer on July 7 for trainer Martin Drexler and owner Joey Gee Thoroughbreds.
Code Warrior will be vying for her second straight graded stakes win for trainer Rachel Halden and jockey Anne Sanguinetti following her Grade 3 Hendrie Stakes score in early June.
Nobody’s Fault, winner of the Unbridled Sidney Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 13, is one of two Neil Pessin trainees in the field along with longshot Scatter Gun. Jockey Luis Contreras is listed on both mounts.
Woodbine’s leading trainer Mark Casse also has a contender in Zadracarta runner-up Jennifer Lynnette, who will be ridden by Patrick Husbands.
River Maid will be hoping to breakthrough for her first win of the year following her 2016 Sovereign Award-winning campaign as Champion Female Sprinter for trainer Robert Tiller and jockey Gary Boulanger.
Miss Gossip and Salty Breeze complete the field.
$125,000 Royal North Grade III Stakes
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer – Morning Line Odds
1. Miss Gossip – James Graham – Andrew McKeever – 12/1
2. Jennifer Lynnette – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse – 10/1
3. Southern Ring – Eurico Rosa da Silva – Malcolm Pierce – 3/1
4. Nobody’s Fault – Luis Contreras – Neil Pessin – 4/1
5. Code Warrior – Anne Sanguinetti – Rachel Halden – 6/1
6. Scatter Gun – Luis Contreras – Neil Pessin – 20/1
7. Kasuga – Jesse Campbell – Martin Drexler – 10/1
8. Salty Breeze – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Josie Carroll – 20/1
9. River Maid – Gary Boulanger – Robert Tiller – 15/1
10. Skylander Girl – Rafael Hernandez – Alexander Patykewich – 5/2