05/23/2013 11:13AM

Woodbine: Irish Mission seeks first win of year in Nassau


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The big chestnut Irish Mission, last year’s Canadian champion 3-year-old filly and champion turf female, returns to Woodbine on Saturday in the $200,000 Nassau, the first turf stakes of the meet.

Irish Mission won last year’s Woodbine Oaks and was a closing second over a speed-favoring Polytrack in the Queen’s Plate. She beat the boys in the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Stakes on grass.

Trainer Mark Frostad ran Irish Mission twice on turf at Gulfstream over the winter. She wound up second in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer Feb. 28 and was caught on the wire for second after making the lead in midstretch in the Grade 3 Orchid going 1 1/2 miles March 30.

“She stumbled coming out of the gate in her first race,” Frostad said. “She got trapped down on the rail most of the way, but she ran well. She was a little rank in her second race and probably got a little tired at the end.”

Frostad felt that cutting Irish Mission back to a mile in the Nassau isn’t ideal, but he’s going into the Grade 2 event with confidence.

“It might be a little short,” Frostad said, “but we’ve had some rain, which ought to slow [the course] down a little. She’s a much stronger filly this year. She’s got more speed than she had as a 3-year-old. She’s grown into herself. She’s had two starts under her belt. I expect a big effort out of her.”

Frostad also entered Transgression, who prevailed in a first-level allowance in her penultimate outing at Gulfstream.

Last time out at Keeneland, Transgression backed up to sixth after a stalking trip in a second-level allowance that was moved from the grass to the Polytrack.

“I don’t know what happened there,” Frostad said. “She definitely has lots of ability.”

There are two front-runners in the seven-horse field, Dancing to Town and English Class.

Dancing to Town is based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland with trainer Michael Matz, who won the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen Stakes here last year with Colonial Flag.

Dancing to Town took the winter off after tailing off in the fall. She led throughout a rapidly run second-level optional claimer on Polytrack at Keeneland when she came off the sidelines April 14.

English Class is sent out by Brian Lynch, who captured last Sunday’s Grade 3 Selene Stakes with Coffee Clique. English Class, fresh off a third in an optional claimer at Churchill, was a close second in a division of the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland in October.

Northern Passion, a charging second in the 2012 Woodbine Oaks, is making her second start after an extended layoff.