TORONTO, October 10, 2019—Yorkton, an unlucky second in last year’s edition of the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes, will be looking for a happier ending in Saturday’s six-furlong turf test for three-year-olds and upward.
The Nearctic, which offers a purse of $250,000, attracted a field of nine and goes as the seventh of 12 races on a program headlined by the Grade 1, $800,000 Canadian International and Grade 1, $600,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes.
“He ran a big race,” said trainer Stu Simon, recalling Yorkton’s tough loss in this race last fall over a “good” surface, which probably did not aid his cause. “The track was just a touch soft; it had a little give to it. Unfortunately, the rider blew his stick at the eighth pole, and he just got beat a neck.”
Yorkton, a five-year-old horse who races for Chiefswood Stables Limited, comes into the Nearctic off his second consecutive win in the Grade 3 Bold Venture, a 6 ½-furlong stakes on the Tapeta surface. The Ontario-bred was making his first start in 11 weeks after weakening to finish sixth in the Highlander, a Grade 1 race over the Nearctic course and distance.
“He grabbed a ‘quarter’ really bad; he came back bleeding,” said Simon. “It wasn’t a bad race–he was only beaten four lengths—it was just a bad circumstance.
“He had a little freshening, and came back with a good race. I think if the turf is firm, he’s as good or better than he is on the main track.”
Yorkton is a stakes winner on the grass, having captured the listed Charlie Barley over one mile as a three-year-old. He also won that race in stalking fashion, a style which could be a decided asset here due to the presence of some other very speedy types in the lineup.
“He’s just fast, that’s his problem, but he doesn’t need to be on the lead,” said Simon, who also loved Yorkton’s draw of the outside post. “I know he could track horses, especially, coming from the nine-hole.”
Patrick Husbands, who rode Yorkton for the first time in the Bold Venture, retains the mount on the 121-pound highweight.
Adding international flavour to the Nearctic is the presence of Woody Creek, who is invading from Ireland for trainer James Stack.
Woody Creek, a three-year-old, will be looking to become the first filly to win the Nearctic since the four-year-old Serious Attitude upset the 2010 edition.
Caspar Netscher, in 2014, was the last Euro shipper to take down the Nearctic. Serious Attitude also journeyed across the pond for her earlier triumph.
“She’s good,” said Eimear McHugh, travelling assistant to trainer James Stack. “She’s fresh; she travelled well.”
The English-bred Woody Creek is coming off a fifth-pace finish in Arran Scottish Sprint Stakes, run over a straight five and a half furlongs of “good” turf at Ayr.
“She was kind of boxed in—she made up an awful lot of lengths, coming into the home turn,” said McHugh.
Woody Creek was the tepid choice in Scotland after finishing second, beaten just a nose when making her group stakes debut in the Phoenix Sprint Stakes at The Curragh. That Group 3 dash was run over six furlongs of “soft” going at the Curragh.
“I didn’t think she’d go on the soft ground,” said McHugh, who is hoping that a pace battle would benefit her charge. “Normally, she finishes very well.”
Locally-based Kazushi Kimura has been recruited for the mount on Woody Creek, who gets in with a feathery 110 pounds.
Boreal Spirit, fresh off back-to-back turf sprint scores with the latest coming over the inner course, will inject plenty of speed into the Nearctic scenario. The Ontario-bred seven-year-old gelding would be the first stakes winner for trainer Jennifer Shafer.
Richiesinthehouse, invading from Chicago for trainer Larry Rivelli, also likes to set up shop on the front end. The five-year-old gelding won back-to-back turf sprints at Arlington to begin his career and arrives in fine form off consecutive synthetic scores at Arlington and Presque Isle.
Trainer Mark Casse has a pair for the Nearctic in Blind Ambition and Lookin to Strike.
Blind Ambition, winner of two listed turf sprint stakes in New York earlier in his career, was successful when making his Woodbine debut in a six-furlong turf race here September 6.
Lookin to Strike was making his first start in almost eight months on August 23 when closing for second, beaten a nose by Boreal Spirit, on the inner turf course at Woodbine. The four-year-old colt subsequently finished ninth in the Presque Downs Mile on a Tapeta surface.
The Barbara Minshall-trained Admiralty Pier, Canada’s champion two-year-old of 2017, was a two-turn turf winner at Tampa Bay Downs and has been keeping top company here lately, finishing a close fifth in the Play the King and then ending seventh after pressing the pace in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
Reconfigure, claimed for $25,000 here this July, has run well in four starts for owner/trainer Bob Tiller and was second, beaten a neck while sporting a $60,000 tag in his latest.
City Boy, trained by Michael Keogh, was third in that optional claiming race at six furlongs on the turf.
$250,000 Nearctic Stakes (Grade 2)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Admiralty Pier – Rafael Hernandez – Barbara Minshall
2 – Lookin to Strike – Jerome Lermyte – Mark Casse
3 – Boreal Spirit – Gary Boulanger – Jennifer Shafer
4 – Reconfigure – Luis Contreras – Robert Tiller
5 – City Boy – Jesse Campbell – Mike Keogh
6 – Blind Ambition – Eurico Rosa da Silva – Mark Casse
7 – Woody Creek – Kazushi Kimura – James Stack
8 – Richiesinthehouse – Jose Valdivia Jr. – Larry Rivelli
9 – Yorkton – Patrick Husbands – Stuart Simon