07/02/2017 2:36PM

Green Mask gains BC Turf Sprint berth with Highlander win

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Emily Shields
Green Mask and rider Javier Castellano won the Highlander Stakes by two lengths.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario — The favored shipper Green Mask punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint this fall at Del Mar with a decisive score in Sunday’s Grade 2 Highlander Stakes, a BC Win and You’re In qualifier at Woodbine.

Commute set a lively pace in the six-furlong turf sprint, while being pressed by longshot Don Camillo, as Green Mask raced about five lengths back in fifth on the turn under Javier Castellano.

Green Mask split rivals around the three-sixteenths pole, and then dashed clear to prevail by two lengths over a wide-closing Calgary Cat. Commute faded to third, and was followed by Commend, Noholdingback Bear, Don Camillo, and Sweet Grass Creek.

Over firm turf, the hand-timed final time was 1:07.59.

“He’s a very straightforward horse,” Castellano said. “He learns every single race. When I started riding him, he was a five-furlong (expert), but the way he finished going three-quarters, it really impressed me. I’m very satisfied with the way he did it today.”

Green Mask ($3.20) earned $150,000 of the $250,500 purse for owner Abdullah Saeed Almaddah. He was the first Woodbine winner for trainer Brad Cox, who sent out the 5-year-old son of Mizzen Mast to finish a close second in last year’s Highlander.

“A big reason for coming was the Win and You’re In program,” Cox said.  “I was a little concerned running back in 22 days, but he had a great breeze Monday at Belmont, and came out of it in good order. We thought we’d give him a shot. It worked out. The long stretch was a little bit of a concern. It beat him last year, but it didn’t today. Javier did a great job splitting horses, and he finished up well.”