11/29/2011 3:32PM

Woodbine: Breeders' Cup winner to invade for Valedictory

Tom Keyser
Afleet Again, with Cornelio Velasquez riding, wins the Breeders' Cup Marathon.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Afleet Again was one of the major upsetters at this year’s Breeders’ Cup, capturing the Grade 2, 1 3/4-mile Grade 2 Marathon at 41-1.

On Sunday, Afleet Again will be looking to double up at Woodbine in the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory, the traditional closing-day feature for 3-year-olds and upward that offers Grade 3 status for the first time and a purse of $150,000.

“We’re packing our bags right now,” said trainer Butch Reid, from his Parx Racing base in Pennsylvania on Tuesday morning.

“We’ll get him up there and train him over the track for a couple of days, get him ready for the race.”

Following the Marathon, Reid began searching for a spot for Afleet Again and the Valedictory was an obvious choice.

“The distance was the biggest factor,” said Reid, who trains the 4-year-old Afleet Again for Kasey K Racing Stable. “It’s so hard to find races of that length, you kind of have to go wherever they are.”

Afleet Again has started 18 times on dirt and six times on turf, and the Valedictory will be his debut on a synthetic surface.

“That’s a bit of a concern,” said Reid, who will be saddling his first horse in Canada and visiting the country for the first time. “We thought about taking him down to Fair Hill, to train on the track down there.

“But the way he ran on the turf was good enough, and he’s run very well in the slop. I think that surface up there actually might benefit him.”

Cornelio Velazquez, who piloted Afleet Again for the first time in the BC Marathon, has the call for the Valedictory.

The Valedictory is shaping up with a competitive field that also should include Eagle Poise, who shipped in to defeat Eye of the Leopard by a neck in the 1 5/8-mile allowance prep here Nov. 11; Kentucky shipper Getta Rhythm; and the 3-year-old Alpha Bettor.

A Kentucky-bred gelding, Alpha Bettor was an impressive last-out winner over older horses in an optional $62,500 claiming/second-level allowance race at 1 1/8 miles here Nov. 13.

Alpha Bettor was coming off a seven-week layoff after finishing last of eight in the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby.

“He was too sharp, and he kind of broke into the gate there,” said Vella. “He knocked out two or three of his teeth, split his lip open, and cut his eye.

“We gave him time to recover, freshened him, and got some weight back on him. Obviously, he responded to that. He bounced back good, and seems to be in perfect order.

Alpha Bettor will be traveling beyond 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the Valedictory, but Vella is hoping the distance will be within his scope.

“He’s by Alphabet Soup,” said Vella. “He should get a trip. There’s only one way to find out.”

Half-dozen headed to Florida

Following the end of the meeting, Vella will be taking six or seven horses to the farm in Ocala, including the 2-year-olds Strait of Dover, Stormy Revenge and Noble Chief and the 3-year-old filly Ambitious Journey.

Strait of Dover, a British Columbia-bred who races for Canyon Farm, was unplaced in his first two starts in Vancouver.

But the colt, by English Channel out of the Danzig mare Bahrain Star, has finished first in his two outings here for Vella, being disqualified and placed third in his local debut before making it official last Saturday.

His first attempt here came at six furlongs and the most recent at 6 1/2 furlongs with jockey Justin Stein in the irons.

“I believe he’ll be a really nice 3-year-old,” said Vella. “He’s bred to run all day. Justin, from riding him, and me, from training him, believe he’ll get a distance.”

Stormy Revenge, who races for the No. 1 Stable, was well regarded but disappointed in five outings here this season.

“We’re going to geld him,” said Vella. “He didn’t run very well, but I think he has the makings of a good horse.”

Noble Chief, a homebred colt owned by Chiefswood Stable, finished sixth but was beaten just 1 1/2 lengths when traveling seven furlongs in his only outing.

“I think he has the makings of a nice 3-year-old,” said Vella.

Ambitious Journey, also a Chiefswood homebred, raced three times in her first campaign, with her most recent outing a second-place finish behind Athena Rose, who captured the Jammed Lovely Stakes in her next start.

“I think she’s going to be a nice filly,” said Vella.

Stormy Lord making Sovereign case

Stein will be at Calder on Friday to ride Stormy Lord in the Grade 3, $150,000 Tropical Turf Handicap.

Stormy Lord, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old gelding trained by Ian Black, will be seeking his fifth stakes win of the season in the 1 1/8-mile Tropical Turf Handicap and is a leading candidate for the Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion turf male.

Musketier, a 9-year-old German-bred gelding trained by Roger Attfield, had thrust himself into the a divisional awards picture with his victory in the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap over 1 1/2 miles at Calder last Saturday.

◗ There will be extra races offered for each day of the final week of the meeting, with nine races having been drawn for Wednesday and Thursday, 10 for Friday, 11 slated for Saturday, and 13 for Sunday with first post set for 1 p.m. and the finale for 6:51 p.m.

◗ Mr. Sekiguchi, a Kentucky-bred 8-year-old by Storm Cat out of the Seeking the Gold mare Welcome Surprise, will be standing at Michael Byrne’s Park Stud in Orangeville, Ontario, next season. An $8 million yearling purchase at Keeneland, Mr. Sekiguchi had shown much promise while compiling a 2-2-0 record from his first four starts in California before being injured.

Mr. Sekiguchi’s first crop includes Rose and Shine, a two-time stakes winner here for trainer Ralph Biamonte this season and a leading candidate for Saturday’s Ontario Lassie Stakes.

◗ Friday will be the last day that the clockers will be recording workouts on the main track, which will remain open on Saturday and Sunday for gallopers.