TORONTO, June 30—Tower of Texas threw a scare into the mighty Tepin here last September, beaten a half-length by that two-time Eclipse Award champion as the runner-up in the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
On Sunday, Tower of Texas will be looking for his second Grade 2 stakes win in as many starts this season in the $175,000 King Edward over the same mile distance on the E.P. Taylor Turf course.
“He’s doing very well”, said trainer Roger Attfield. “He had a very good work last week.”
Following the Ricoh Woodbine Mile, Tower of Texas had gone to Keeneland for the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile but was never in contention after hopping at the start. Sent to the farm a little the worse for wear, Tower of Texas returned here this spring and overcame trouble to run down Commute and prevail by a nose in the seven-furlong Connaught Cup on June 3.
“I expected him to be ready to win that race,” said Attfield, who conditions the Kentucky-bred 6-year-old gelding for Tom Van Meter II and Scott Dillworth. “It was a very good effort.”
Stretching back out to a mile certainly will suit Tower of Texas, who was a closing third in last year’s King Edward.
“At seven furlongs to a mile, he’s very effective,” said Attfield.
Eurico Rosa da Silva will be back aboard Tower of Texas, who drew the No. 5 post and will carry 119 pounds.
Dragon Bay, a stakes winner over one mile of turf at Saratoga last summer and 1 1/16 miles of Tapeta in his last start here May 20, will be seeking to add an E.P. Taylor turf score to his resume here.
“He’s a fresh horse; he’s doing very good,” said Simon.
Dragon Bay’s most recent score in the Grade 3 came at the direct expense of Are You Kidding Me, who has been Canada’s champion older male for the past two seasons. The Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding stalked the pace there under Gary Boulanger then took over with a furlong to run and held on by a neck.
“I still think he’s as good, or better, on turf,” said Simon, who also shares ownership in Dragon Bay with Brent and Russ McLellan. “A mile of turf, that’s what I think he’s best at."
Dragon Bay will be the 123-pound highweight for the King Edward with Boulanger, who rode for the first time in the Eclipse, retaining the mount.
Monster Bea is making his local turf debut for trainer Mark Casse, who had the then 2-year-old in his barn here when he finished fifth in the 2015 Display at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack. Following a stint last summer in California with Peter Miller, where he won a restricted stakes and was close in several graded stakes, Monster Bea is back with Casse and is coming off a solid second-off-the-layoff effort. Competing under third-level allowance terms at Belmont, Monster Bea finished well after a wide trip in was beaten a neck in a 1 1/16 turf race.
“He’s a nice horse,” said Casse. “He’s just on the edge of being a very good horse. This should be a very good race for him.”
Monster Bea, who is owned by Gary Barber, will be ridden by Patrick Husbands for the first time.
Attfield has a second King Edward entrant in Shakhimat, who has seen his stock slip this year after making a successful seasonal bow at 3 in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Transylvania over 1 1/16 miles of turf and being highly regarded when fifth in the Queen’s Plate.
Shakhimat was sidelined following the July 3 Queen’s Plate and did not return to the races until April with an eighth-place finish in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Shakertown at five furlongs on the turf. In his two subsequent outings at Woodbine, Shakhimat has shown speed on both turf and Tapeta but lacked strong finishes.
“He’s been gelded since then, and he’s been training very well,” said Attfield, who trains Shakhimat for Dan Gale and Richard Hogan. “It’s going to be interesting.”
Javier Castellano, in town for Sunday’s festivities, has picked up the mount on Shakhimat.
Hollywood Hideaway, who finished gamely but was beaten 2 ¼ lengths by Tower of Texas as the Highlander fourth, and Unbridled Juan, four lengths back when third behind Dragon Bay in the Eclipse, will be looking to turn the tables on their respective conquerors.
Go Bro is coming off a second-place finish under allowance terms behind Melmich, who will be looking to win the Dominion Day for the second straight time on Saturday.
Ikerrin Road, claimed for $32,000 here in May and a winner for $50,000 two starts later, is taking a shot here for trainer Vito Armata, who always will hold Queens’s Plate day in dear regard. Hootenany is cross-entered in the Highlander, a six-furlong turf race which offers Grade 2 status and is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.