TORONTO, August 23, 2020 – Two-year-olds Gretzky the Great and Alda shared the spotlight on Sunday as Woodbine hosted the $100,000 Soaring Free Stakes and filly companion Catch a Glimpse.
The 6-1/2-furlong sprints contested on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, which both ended in exciting finishes, are local preps for the upcoming Grade 1 Summer and Natalma, a pair of Breeders’ Cup ‘Win And You’re In’ one-mile turf stakes set for September 20.
Gretzky the Great was all class, just like his legendary namesake, in winning his first stakes assignment with Kazushi Kimura aboard for trainer Mark Casse and owners Gary Barber and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.
In the Soaring Free, Gretzky the Great settled behind the front-striding Into the Sunrise through fractions of :23.16 and :45.51 before kicking into action down the lane. Gaining with every stride as the wire approached, the talented Casse trainee collared Into the Sunrise for the victory in 1:13.83.
Gretzky the Great paid $6.70 to win. He was sent postward as the 2-1 second choice to Victoria Stakes champion Ready to Repeat, who finished 1-1/4 lengths behind the top pair in third. Gospel Way and Exceed completed the order of finish.
The Ontario-bred youngster was a runner-up to Ready to Repeat in his career debut on July 12 and has now won back-to-back starts. The lion’s share of the purse more than doubled his bankroll, which reached six-figures.
“I was so satisfied the last time and today that was the best performance of his life,” said Kimura.
Bred by Anderson Farms, the Nyquist colt is out of the multiple stakes placed Bernardini mare Pearl Turn.
Woodbine newcomer Alda later defeated 4-5 favourite Dreaming of Drew by a head bob in the Catch a Glimpse for trainer Graham Motion and owner/breeder Wertheimer et Frere.
With Steven Bahen aboard, Alda trailed the field of six fillies early on while Illegal Smile was pressed by Road to Romance on the front through a quarter in :22.20 and half-mile in :44.74. Meanwhile, 4-5 favourite Dreaming of Drew was biding her time in third behind the top pair.
While the rail appeared to open up down the stretch for Dreaming of Drew, she went outside of Illegal Smile to take over command with a sixteenth to go, but Bahen timed his own bid just right with the late-charging Alda, who edged out the favourite by a nose in a photo finish. The final time was 1:14 flat.
Sent postward as the 5-2 second choice following a maiden-breaking victory on July 9 at Belmont Park, Alda returned $7.30 to win. Illegal Smile settled for third 1-1/4 lengths back, while Emmeline, Road to Romance and Purrsuade Me completed the order of finish. Ostracize was a late scratch.
While the finish was too close to call for Bahen, he expected the big stretch run from the promising filly.
“I had talked to [Graham Motion] this morning and I watched her races yesterday,” said Bahen. “She’s got a real big kick and we discussed that we should just be off the pack, three or four off would be nice. I ended up being a little further back than I wanted to, and she gave me that run she has.
“It was my first time on her, and she was pretty classy,” added the veteran reinsman.
Bred in Kentucky, the Munnings-Soldata filly now has two wins from three career starts with earnings climbing over the $100,000 mark.
Live Thoroughbred racing continues at Woodbine on Thursday with post time for the first of eight races set for 3:20 p.m. Racing Night Live begins at 6 p.m. on TSN with the two-hour broadcast covering action from Woodbine Racetrack and Woodbine Mohawk Park.