TORONTO, June 10 – Undefeated Embur’s Song heads a select field of eight for Sunday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, the most prestigious race in the country for Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies.
Post time for the 55th edition of the mile and one-eighth classic over Woodbine’s Polytrack is 5:16 pm ET, with the winner earning $300,000. All fillies carry 121 pounds. Also on Sunday’s card is the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes, which has attracted eight Canadian-foaled three-year-olds with aspirations of competing in Canada’s most famous horse race, the Queen’s Plate, July 4 at Woodbine.
CBC-TV will televise both the Plate Trial (post time 4:41 pm) and the Woodbine Oaks as part of a special one-hour telecast across the country.
The Oaks post position draw took place at WEGZ Stadium Bar in Vaughan at noon today, with Olympic bronze medallist and six-time Canadian figure skating champion Joannie Rochette as Woodbine’s special guest.
Last year, C.E.C. Farms’ Milwaukee Appeal took the Oaks as the 9-2 third choice, winning by three and three-quarter lengths in 1:49.84.
This year, Fares Farm’s Embur’s Song, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Garrett Gomez, is the 9-5 morning line choice from post six. The Ontario-bred daughter of Unbridled’s Song, who is making her stakes debut, is unbeaten in two career outings and with an Oaks victory would become the only filly in its 55 editions to capture the classic in just her third start.
Embur’s Song debuted at Keeneland on April 17 with a smashing 13 ¼-length romp in a seven-furlong maiden contest, registering a 99 Beyer (Daily Racing Form speed rating) in the process. She was then sent to Woodbine for a mile and one-sixteenth allowance race on May 22 and scored easily again, this time by almost four lengths, recording another huge Beyer (98) while being clocking in 1:42.2, just one-fifth of a second off the track record.
“We know this will be a much tougher race than the last one,” said Pletcher. “From a timing standpoint we’re kind of asking her to do a lot in a short period of time. We’re hoping that her natural ability can overcome maybe a less than ideal schedule. But she seems to be handling it all.”
Three fillies have won the Oaks while undefeated: Classy ‘n Smart (1984), Too Late Now (2003) and Eye of the Sphynx (2004). All three, though, were making their fourth career starts in the Oaks.
Trainer Roger Attfield, who has won the Oaks on three occasions (Playlist in 1986, Plenty of Sugar in 1994 and Capdiva in 1997), will saddle Jim and Susan Hill’s Ernfold (PP8), the second choice at 5-2. The daughter of Stormy Atlantic has won twice in six starts and has been stakes-placed on three occasions. She was third in both the Natalma and Princess Elizabeth last year, then recently was runner-up to Biofuel in the May 23 La Lorgnette at one and one-sixteenth miles. She’ll be ridden by Jim McAleney, who won the 2005 Oaks aboard Gold Strike.
“It was an excellent race,” said Attfield, about Ernfold’s effort in the La Lorgnette. “She had one (previous) start and ran a very good second to a good filly. It was a strangely run race because there was so little pace. We had to be on the lead a little earlier than we wanted. She put up a tremendous showing.”
Resentless (PP2, 3-1), trained by Ian Howard for owner Donald Ross, is a three-time winner in six starts, and enters the Oaks off a five-length victory in the seven furlong Fury Stakes, May 1, her only outing of the season. She’s the field’s leading money winner with $287,600. Last year, she finished second to Oaks rival Roan Inish in the mile and one-sixteenth Princess Elizabeth Stakes. The daughter of Trajectory will be handled by Chantal Sutherland.
However, Resentless came down with a virus and bacterial infection after the Fury and was briefly sidelined.
“It’s always worrisome when you’ve missed time and you have to guess where you are,” said Howard. “But her ability to sustain her speed throughout a race can take her further than most horses. She does it very easily. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Robert Costigan’s homebred Roan Inish (PP3, 6-1) is trained by his daughter Carolyn Costigan, who will try to become the first female conditioner to win the Oaks. Last year, the daughter of Elusive Quality-Inish Glora came to Canada from Ireland and proceeded to break her maiden in the prestigious Princess Elizabeth, defeating Resentless by one length with a late stretch charge. This year, she debuted with a second-place finish to Resentless in the Fury, also her only start of the campaign. She’ll be ridden by Ireland’s Davy Moran, who was aboard in both the Princess Elizabeth and Fury.
Embur’s Song, Resentless and Roan Inish are also nominated to the Queen’s Plate.
Two-time Oaks winner Mark Casse will send out Classic Oaks Farm’s Isabeau’s Elegance (PP1, 20-1), a daughter of Dixie Union, with jockey Corey Fraser. Isabeau’s Elegance will be making just her fourth career start after breaking her maiden on May 21, edging Oaks rival Oil Painting by a nose. Casse trained 2006 Oaks winner Kimchi and 2007 Oaks champion and Horse of the Year Sealy Hill. Last year, he saddled second-place finisher Tasty Temptation.
Trainer Mike Doyle, who won the 1989 Oaks with Blondeinamotel, will saddle Hendrie Stable’s Tee Game (PP4, 20-1), a two-time winner in 11 outings. To be ridden by Slade Callaghan, Tee Game most recently was fifth to Biofuel and Ernfold in the La Lorgnette.
Moment of Majesty (PP7, 10-1), co-owned and trained by Sue Leslie, for partners Don Meehan and Curtis Joseph, is also a two-time winner in seven starts and was third in the La Lorgnette last out. The Joseph-bred daughter of Saint Liam will be ridden by Robert Landry, himself a three-time Oaks winner, with Too Late Now (2003), Catch the Ring (2000) and Capdiva (1997).
Completing the line-up is Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings’ Oil Painting (PP5, 20-1), trained by Josie Carroll. To be ridden by Patrick Husbands, who won the Oaks in 2006 with Kimchi and 2007 with Sealy Hill, Oil Painting, a product of Distorted Humor-Handpainted, will try to become the first maiden to win the filly classic.
The Woodbine Oaks is the first leg in the filly Triple Tiara, followed by the mile and one-sixteenth $250,000 Bison City Stakes, July 11, and the mile and one-quarter, $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes, August 1 on the turf, both also at Woodbine. Only Sealy Hill in 2007 has captured the Triple Tiara.
The record time for the mile and one-eighth Oaks is 1:48 4/5 seconds, set by Square Angel in 1973. Regent Miss ($345.80) in 1981 is the longest-priced winner while champion Dance Smartly produced the lowest win payoff ($2.10) in 1991. The largest winning margin in the race’s history was Avowal’s 13-length tally in 1982.
The last seven winners of the Oaks have gone on to earn Sovereign Awards as Canada’s top three-year-old filly. Also, mutuel favourites have won 29 of 54 (53.7%) Oaks, the last by Ginger Brew in 2008.
The 68th running of the Plate Trial Stakes, at one and one-eighth miles, is headed by Hollinger, last year’s champion two-year-old colt in Canada and dual stakes winner Ghost Fleet. Hollinger, trained by eight-time Plate winner Roger Attfield, was undefeated last year, winning the rich Cup and Saucer and Coronation Futurity, en route to earnings of $389,100, but suffered his first loss in his seasonal debut, finishing fourth to Essence Hit Man in the Queenston Stakes, May 15.
Ghost Fleet, trained by Sid Attard, finished second in the Queenston in his debut this year, after taking the Vandal and Swynford Stakes and finishing a close fourth to Hollinger in the Coronation Futurity last year.
Twenty-four Plate Trial winners have also gone on to win the ‘Gallop for the Guineas’, including the last two – Not Bourbon in 2008 and Eye of the Leopard in 2009.