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Play the King cast eyes Woodbine Mile
ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Play the King, the major local prep for the $1 million Woodbine Mile, will be run here next Saturday.
Locally based horses eyeing the $200,000 Play the King, a Grade 2 turf race at seven furlongs, include Royal Oath, Le Cinquieme Essai, Mulmur, Just Rushing, Wollemi Pine, Unusual Suspect, and Disfunction.
But the Play the King is in a curious position on the schedule as it will be run just two weeks prior to the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, a turf race for 3-year-olds and upward.
In previous years, the Play the King was run a more comfortable three weeks before the Woodbine Mile, which now is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program.
But changes in the stakes schedule this year moved the Woodbine Mile forward a week, in order to be run as part of a blockbuster turf stakes program along with the Grade 1 Northern Dancer and the Grade 2 Canadian, and the timing of the Play the King was not correspondingly adjusted.
The $750,000 Northern Dancer, a 1o1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward, had been run late in July but was moved to serve as the major local prep for the Grade 1, $2omillion Canadian International, a 1 1/2-mile turf race that will be run on Oct. 4.
The Canadian International and its companion features, the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor for fillies and mares and the Grade 2 Nearctic for 3-year-olds and upward, had been moved forward three weeks to become part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program.
The Grade 3, $300,000 Summer, previously part of the Woodbine Mile Day program, also will be run Oct. 4, and is a Win and You're In race.
Royal Oath using Play the King
Royal Oath, who was sent here this spring with a long-term eye toward the Woodbine Mile, is scheduled to use the Play the King as his stepping-stone.
A 5-year-old horse owned by Will Farish and Bill Farish Jr., Royal Oath was a stakes winner in England and was stakes-placed in Dubai before being shipped to North America for the Grade 3 Connaught Cup here May 25.
Royal Oath finished a rather flat fifth in the Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that was his final start for trainer John Gosden.
Four weeks later, making his first start for trainer Mark Casse, Royal Oath was a half-length winner of the Grade 2 King Edward, a 1 1/8-mile race over yielding turf.
Freshened since the King Edward, Royal Oath breezed five furlongs in 1:00 on the main track here last Sunday.
Le Cinquieme Essai on target
While a Woodbine Mile run is not out of the question for Le Cinquieme Essai, a 9-year-old trained by Paul Nielsen, the Play the King is his primary target.
Owned and bred by Bill Scott, Le Cinquieme Essai would be making his fourth consecutive appearance in the Play the King. He finished second in 2005 and then won the last two editions.
Le Cinquieme Essai was sidelined while gearing up for an appearance in the 2006 Woodbine Mile, which was won by Play the King runner-up Becrux.
But Le Cinquieme Essai did run in the 2005 and 2007 editions of the Woodbine Mile, finishing third behind Leroidesanimaux on the first occasion and 11th last year, though beaten only six lengths by the race's winner, Shakespeare.
Sent home with a suspensory problem after last year's Woodbine Mile, Le Cinquieme Essai finished second here in the July 19 Ontario Jockey Club while making his first start in 10 months, an effort that should set him up nicely for the Play the King.
Le Cinquieme Essai breezed a leisurely five furlongs in 1:03.80 around the dogs on a "good" turf training track here Friday morning.
Just Rushing in off promising prep
The winner of the Ontario Jockey Club, a seven-furlong turf race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward, was Mulmur.
Owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, Mulmur earned his first stakes win, at odds of 31-1.
Just Rushing, who finished third in the Ontario Jockey Club while making his first start in eight months, came back to finish second, beaten a nose by Wollemi Pine, in the Play the King prep here Aug. 1.
A 7-year-old gelding owned by Carlo and Lou Tucci and trained by Sid Attard, Just Rushing was beaten three-quarters of a length by Le Cinquieme Essai as the runner-up in last year's Play the King.
Wollemi Pine on the rise
Wollemi Pine, winner of the Play the King prep at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf, is an up-and-coming 4-year-old gelding owned by Kinghaven Farm and partners and trained by Ian Black.
In two six-furlong turf sprints earlier this year, Wollemi Pine won the prep for the Highlander and then finished third in the Highlander itself on June 22.
Disfunction, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Joe Doi and Weila Ye and trained by Julia Carey, also has blossomed this year, winning the Grade 3 Vigil at seven furlongs here Mayo19 and then running second in his next start in the 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture on July 20.
The Play the King would be his turf debut.
Unusual Suspect, a multiple turf stakes winner for trainer Barry Abrams and family, was sent here in June and has failed to find the winner's circle in four starts.
The 4-year-old colt's last two outings came at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack, with the most recent a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup on July 27.
Three other six-digit stakes offered
The Play the King is the only stakes that is guaranteed to go here next weekend, but three $100,000 overnight stakes will be offered, all of which will require fields of at least five to be carded.
The Silver Deputy, an open 6 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-olds, is in the condition book for Saturday.
The Belle Geste, a seven-furlong turf race for Ontario-foaled fillies and mares, and the Ice Water, an open seven-furlong turf race for 2-year-old fillies, will be available Sunday.
The Silver Deputy could serve as a stepping-stone to the $150,000 Swynford, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-olds here Sept. 14.
The Ice Water, which would be run for the first time, is a prep for the Grade 3, $150,000 Natalma, a seven-furlong turf race for 2-year-old fillies here Sept. 14.
The winner of the Natalma will receive an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.