06/29/2007 11:00PM

Grade 1 winners meet in King Edward BC


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - In one of the most anticipated matchups in recent Woodbine history, Grade 1 winners Sky Conqueror and Jambalaya will clash at nine furlongs on the grass in the Grade 2, $200,000 King Edward Breeders' Cup Stakes on Monday's holiday card.

Sky Conqueror, last year's champion male turf runner in Canada, will likely be favored off his impressive triumph in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill. Trainer Darwin Banach said Sky Conqueror overcame some adversity to prevail by a nose under Javier Castellano.

"He stumbled badly leaving the gate and ripped his front shoe off," Banach said. "He picked himself up, had a tremendous kick at the end, and got up by a whisker."

Banach shipped Sky Conqueror to Belmont Park for the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes on June 9, but had to scratch him after the horse tied up. Banach said there were several contributing factors to the condition, including a 17-hour van ride and an exercise rider change.

"His regular rider couldn't get across the border," Banach said. "We ended up using one of Kiaran McLaughlin's riders. He couldn't come at the time that we usually train 'Sky,' which is first thing in the morning. The track there is very deep and sandy, which was a major change from our tight Polytrack. All those things added up to a very unlucky situation."

Banach said Sky Conqueror had an encouraging five-furlong breeze in 1:01.40 last Monday under Todd Kabel. "He's doing very well," said Banach. "Todd was very happy with his last work."

Castellano was committed to ride Jambalaya for trainer Catherine Day Phillips in the King Edward, so Kabel has the mount on Sky Conqueror.

"Castellano's agent thought we were going to run in the Manhattan, so he gave the call to Catherine for this race," Banach said.

Jambalaya overcame traffic problems on the far turn to take the Grade 1 Gulfstream BC Stakes under Castellano in February.

"It looked like he had lots of horse," Day Phillips said. "Everybody else moved, and he had nowhere to go. It almost looked like he was losing ground, but all of a sudden a seam opened up, and away he went."

Jambalaya has been laid up since winning the Grade 3 Pan American Handicap on March 31.

"He had a break after his Gulfstream races," Day Phillips said. "We thought he might be ready for the [May 27] Connaught Cup, but he was let down a little more than we thought. There was no point in rushing him, so we just focused on the King Eddie."