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Woodbine: Halton and Elgin fields still up in air
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The fields for the Halton and Elgin, two of the four $125,000 yearling sales stakes for 3-year-olds and up here Wednesday evening, will not be finalized until the scratches are in. Pender Harbour, Good Better Best, Aldous Snow, and Renegade Man all have been cross-entered in the two stakes, with the Halton at one mile on turf and the Elgin a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race.
And with the races having been drawn last Friday, their connections will have had plenty of time to ponder their preferences.
Pender Harbour, trained by Mike De Paulo, is the richest competitor on the program, having banked $1.28 million. The 5-year-old gelding is a stakes winner on dirt, turf, and Polytrack but has yet to put his best foot forward this year, finishing off the board in two Grade 2 stakes on turf.
Pender Harbour was beaten only 3 1/4 lengths when last of nine in the King Edward and failed to move forward when finishing 10 lengths back in ninth in the Nijinsky.
“I really don’t have an answer, other than we took the blinkers off last time,” De Paulo said. “They’ll be going back on.”
Good Better Best was beaten a head when second to Ultimate Destiny in the Steady Growth Stakes in June after finishing two lengths behind Pender Harbour in the 2012 running of that restricted 1 1/16-mile stakes. Trained by Roger Attfield, Good Better Best also has run second in two turf stakes while compiling a record of 3-7-1 from 15 career outings.
“I think he needs to be ridden a certain way to win,” Attfield said. “The timing of his move is important.”
Aldous Snow, conditioned by Malcolm Pierce, has placed in three turf stakes, including last year’s Breeders’ Stakes. But the 4-year-old remains eligible for his second allowance condition after 15 outings.
“Both races are a little short for him,” Pierce said. “He’s been getting himself so far out of it. His last race was his best in a long time.”
Aldous Snow was competing under his second allowance condition when second, beaten a half-length, at 1 1/2 miles on Polytrack here Aug. 2. He finished second in last year’s Halton Stakes behind Welloiledmachine, who is among the 12 entrants for this year’s renewal.
Renegade Man, trained by Mike Doyle, has won twice on Polytrack from four starts on that surface and is coming off a second-place finish in a turf allowance at 1 1/8 miles.
Ultimate Destiny looms as the horse to beat in the Elgin, which lured just six horses, including the cross-entrants.
Owned and trained by Alec Fehr, Ultimate Destiny won his first three starts this year and became a stakes winner in the Steady Growth here June 15.
Ultimate Destiny most recently was second in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup at 1 1/16 miles here Aug. 3. But that effort was all for naught after the stewards declared him a non-starter, ruling that his starting stall had opened just ahead of the others. Fehr has lodged an appeal with the Ontario Racing Commission which will be heard Sept. 19.
“He hasn’t shown any sign of coming down from the big efforts he’s been showing me in the afternoon,” Fehr said. “I can’t see any reason why we’re not going over there to run another big race.”
Black Hornet vs. Consolidator Joe
The Kenora, a six-furlong race, features a matchup between Black Hornet, the top sophomore sprinter on the grounds, and Consolidator Joe, a 5-year-old gelding who has been in career form this year and was supplemented to the race at a cost of $2,500.
Black Hornet has won two stakes at the meet, both for trainer Pat Parente, taking the seven-furlong Queenston and the six-furlong Achievement in front-running fashion. Those sprints were for 3-year-old Ontario-breds, and while Black Hornet will be facing older Canadian-breds in the Kenora, he figures to take some beating.
The Kenora will be the first start for Black Hornet since the June 29 Achievement, but the time away does not concern Parente.
“He’s been training pretty strongly,” Parente said. “I think he’ll show up.”
Trainer Ross Armata claimed Consolidator Joe for $25,000 from owner and breeder Syd Cooper last September and did not know until after the nominations had closed that the horse was eligible for the Kenora. Consolidator Joe failed to meet his $37,000 reserve at the 2009 sale.
“This is a good race for him, I think,” Armata said.
Consolidator Joe recorded his 12th win when making his 21st start here Aug. 2 in the 6 1/2-furlong off-the-turf allowance prep for the Play the King Stakes, scoring by a nose over Dan the Tin Man in a photo finish that many thought had gone the other way.
“He worked so hard it would have been a hard race to lose,” Armata said.
Bear’s Chill, last year’s Kenora winner, last saw action here May 12 when finishing third, beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Consolidator Joe at 6 1/2 furlongs. Bear No Joke rounds out the short field.
Dixie Strike stands out in Algoma
Dixie Strike, a multiple stakes winner of more than $1 million, is a standout in the Algoma, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares which attracted a field of 10.
The 4-year-old Dixie Strike, trained by Mark Casse, closed strongly to finish second, beaten a nose, when making her 2013 debut here July 6 in the Sweet Briar Too Stakes.
Dixie Strike then shipped to Churchill Downs with an eye toward Ellis Park’s one-mile Gardenia Stakes on Aug. 10, but she was scratched from that race.
“That ended up being a tough race,” said Casse, noting the presence of reigning female sprint champion Groupie Doll, who finished third at 1-5 in the Grade 3, $100,000 Gardenia. “For the money, we thought the sales stakes would be a better spot.”
Tee Game is the defending champion in the Algoma, having won last year in front-running fashion after finishing second, beaten a neck, in the 2011 renewal.
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