TORONTO, October 3, 2020 – Leading jockey Justin Stein deployed front-end tactics in the $100,000 Toronto Cup and the Mark Casse-trained Proven Strategies turned back his fellow sophomore foes to win the one-mile Saturday stakes co-feature over Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
Leaving hard from the inside post, Proven Strategies got the jump on his eight rivals but was joined on the lead by a trio of speedsters, including 4-5 favourite Shirl’s Speight, the graded stakes winner looking to rebound from his Ricoh Woodbine Mile defeat two weeks ago.
Bexar, between that pair, headed Proven Strategies on the way to the first quarter in :22.80, but Proven Strategies fought back and drew clear as they raced past the half-mile mark in :45.15.
Stein said it was this point in the race that he knew he was on his way to victory lane: “When we put them away early and he put his ears straight up in the air like he was just galloping on the grass and having a good time and we were still half a mile out.”
Shirl’s Speight, with Rafael Hernandez aboard for trainer Roger Attfield, continued to pursue the front-striding Proven Strategies as those two pulled ahead of the pack turning for home and passed three-quarters in 1:09.00, but Proven Strategies just kept on going to score by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:33.78.
Lucky Curlin and Patrick Husbands rallied wide from the backfield to edge out Shirl’s Speight in a photo for place and complete a 1-2 finish for the Casse stable, which also secured fourth-place honours courtesy of supplement Duke of Carthania and Steve Bahen.
Proven Strategies’ victory in the Toronto Cup marked the sixth time the Hall of Fame trainer has won the race in the last 10 editions.
“I spoke with Mark on the phone this morning and he told me that [Proven Strategies] doesn’t really want to be in behind horses too much, he wants to be free running,” said Stein, who partnered with the Sky Mesa-Stormbeforethecalm colt for the first time and picked up his eighth stakes win of the meet. “He’s really fast leaving so it’s easy to get position and we had the one-hole, so our plan was to go hard out of the gate and then maybe back them up. It depended on the speed on the outside, but he settled early and was relaxed around the turn and that saved a lot of horse for the stretch run.”
Proven Strategies had finished fourth in his prior Woodbine stakes start last fall in the Grade 1 Summer and closed out his two-year-old campaign with a sixth-place showing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The Florida-bred has now won half of his eight sophomore starts to boost his career earnings over $245,000 for owners D.J. Stable, Jonathan Green and Empire Racing Club.
He paid $8.60 to win as the 3-1 second choice.
The popular Josie Carroll-trained three-year-old filly Boardroom blew by her competition in the stretch to win the co-featured $100,000 Duchess Stakes over seven furlongs on the main track for jockey Luis Contreras.
Agreeing it was a much easier and safer trip this time after sustaining a broken line at the start of the race in the Ruling Angel Stakes on Queen’s Plate day (though still finishing third), Contreras had the Commissioner-Money Madness miss positioned for a big stretch run not too far behind the speed horses today.
Multiple stakes winner Owlette and Stein shot to the front and set opening fractions of :22.48 and :44.85 with the Casse-trained Grade 3 Selene champion Two Sixty hot on her heels under Emma-Jayne Wilson. However, Contreras moved his filly into contention heading into the final turn and she powered home a winner in 1:21.51, with another pair of Casse runners, Our Secret Agent (Bahen) and Fly So Pretty (Husbands), closing late to finish second and third.
The winning margin was three-quarters of a length for Boardroom, who had launched her career with a couple of impressive victories this summer for owner LNJ Foxwoods. She paid $6 to win as the 2-1 bettors’ choice.
Avie’s Samurai, also trained by Carroll and ridden by Daisuke Fukumoto, picked up a fourth-place cheque finishing a neck in front of Owlette after stalking the leaders along the rail.
“I knew there was speed in the race, but I didn’t want to be too far back — I didn’t want to give her too much to do at the end,” said Contreras. “I got a nice wide trip in the backstretch and I had to use her a little bit to get good position on the turn, but she’s so talented.”
“She’s a wonderful filly. This filly showed a lot of promise as soon as she came to me and she’s lived up to every bit of it,” praised Carroll. “This filly could be any kind. I think she’s just going to get better.”
The Kentucky-bred rising star has been one of many highlights this season for the Hall of Fame horsewoman, who has completed two-thirds of this year’s OLG Canadian Triple Crown.
“This has been a great season. I have an unbelievable team of people working for me and just some really good horses this year.”
Live Thoroughbred racing resumes on Sunday afternoon at Woodbine with the $150,000 Vice Regent Stakes headlining the 11-race card, which begins at 1:10 p.m.