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Woodbine Oaks: Breeding ground of champions

June 7, 2017

​By Tom Cosgrove and Colin Nolte for

TORONTO, June 7 – The Woodbine Oaks is a very important race on the Canadian racing calendar, but it is also a very important race on the world breeding landscape. There have been many winners to come from this race in the past that have gone on to become outstanding producers of stakes winners and important sires and dams. Many of these great Canadian thoroughbreds are enshrined in the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame, located here at Woodbine.
The 1970 winner was South Ocean. This Windfields Farm – bred was raced by Charles Taylor before he took the helm at Windfields, and is due to join the list of Hall of Fame members at the induction ceremonies gala that will take place at the Mississauga Convention on August 9. South Ocean’s credentials certainly warrant her inclusion into this esteemed group.
South Ocean captured the 1970 Oaks, then known as the Canadian Oaks, with a convincing victory over the great Fanfreluche. South Ocean had let it be known the year before that she was a force to be reckoned when she captured the Yearling Sales Stakes, and fulfilled her promise in beating an outstanding field in the Oaks. Her jockey in the Oaks was Sandy Hawley, who won his first of five consecutive victories in the Canadian classic race. Hawley would win a record eight Woodbine Oaks during his Hall-of-Fame career.

South Ocean winning the Oaks… (Michael Burns Photography)

When South Ocean retired to breeding, she became one of the great broodmares of her generation, in keeping with the tradition of Woodbine Oaks winners becoming outstanding broodmares. South Ocean formed a very fruitful partnership with Northern Dancer and produced two champions sired by him. The first was Northernette, winner of the 1977 Woodbine/Canadian Oaks. Northernette would go on to Sovereign Award Champion Three Year Old Filly honours. She was inducted into the Canadian Racing Hall-of-Fame in 1987. Four years after Northernette came Storm Bird. Here we have the undefeated Champion Two Year Old of 1980 in England and Ireland. Storm Bird later became a great sire and founded a branch of the Northern Dancer sire line that is flourishing today. Storm Bird would have an excellent career as a sire with his most notable son being Storm Cat, a two time leading sire and the progenitor of one of the strongest sire lines currently in fashion.
South Ocean produced four stakes winners in total and eight race winners overall.
Other Woodbine Oaks winners include Flaming Page, dam of the great Triple Crown winner Nijinsky, who won the 1962 edition. Also Flaming Page’s daughter Fleur is the dam of Champion and Epsom Derby winner The Minstrel. Square Angel won the 1973 Oaks and later produced 1979 Oaks winner Kamar. Both mother and daughter have produced major stakes winners around the world such as: Stellarette, Dancing On A Cloud, and Love Smitten (out of Square Angel) and Key To The Moon, Gorgeous, and Seaside Attraction (out of Kamar). Additional major stakes winners such as: Swain, Fantastic Light, Cape Town, Desert Lord, Golden Attraction, and Sheer Reason are all direct descendants from this fine family.
Cool Mood won the 1969 Oaks, the year before South Ocean’s victory, and was from the first crop of foals sired by Northern Dancer. She was purchased by Kinghaven Farms as a yearling. Following her successful racing career, Cool Mood became a foundation mare to Kinghaven’s future success. Two daughters of Cool Mood produced Canadian Triple Crown winners in back-to-back years.
Stakes-winning daughter Passing Mood produced in 1986 a grey colt that would be named With Approval. This grandson of Cool Mood swept the Canadian Triple Crown three years later. Passing Mood also foaled a bay colt eight years later in Belmont Stakes-winner Touch Gold. Both With Approval and Touch Gold became successful sires when their racing careers finished.

Square Angel and a leaping Sandy Hawley… (Michael Burns Photography)

The other daughter of Cool Mood to produce a Triple Crown Champion was Shy Spirit. Her son Izvestia won the 1990 edition of the series in dominating fashion. Shy Spirit also gave the racing world multiple stakes winners Introspective and Key Spirit to add to the family laurels.​
Classy ‘N Smart was the first of seven winners of the prestigious Oaks for Sam-Son Farm. Classy ‘N Smart later become an outstanding broodmare and would produce the great Dance Smartly. This Hall-of-Fame member won the 1991 Oaks in a perfect eight-for-eight season that propelled her to legendary heights. Dance Smartly also produced an Oaks winner herself in the 2001 winner, Dancethruthedawn.
The Woodbine Oaks may be seen as a Canadian-only classic, which in race conditions it is, since it is only available to Canadian-bred three year old fillies. In reality, the race has become a proving ground for some of the more important broodmares on a world-wide scale. Acclaimed horses such as Nijinsky, Dance Smartly, Kamar, Storm Bird, Northernette, Smart Strike, Gorgeous, and Eye Of The Leopard as first generation descendants. Also, The Minstrel, Fantastic Light, Swain, Thornfield, With Approval, Izvestia, Golden Attraction, Desert Lord, Alpha and Hillaby are direct second or third generation descendants. The aforementioned names have marked the Woodbine Oaks as being very important to worldwide breeding.
How current an impact is the Woodbine Oaks to breeding you may ask? On Preakness weekend at Pimlico, the 2017 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes was won by Actress, a daughter of 2007 Woodbine Oaks winner Milwaukee Appeal.
As they say on radio, “The hits just keep on comin’!“
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