04/18/2013 2:03PM

Woodbine: Leinan tops opening day's Star Shoot Stakes

Michael Burns
Leinan is the horse to beat in Saturday’s opening-day feature, the $150,000 Star Shoot for 3-year-old fillies.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Following a tumultuous winter, which saw the end of the racetrack slots program in Ontario, racing returns to Woodbine on Saturday with a 10-race card of mostly shorter sprints.

Overnight purses are slated to remain the same, but the 133-day meet is 23 days less than last year’s meet, which had an average daily purse distribution of $508,000. The 2012 meet was originally scheduled for 167 days, but was cut to 156 with the elimination of Thursday cards late in the season.

“Considering all that’s gone on in this industry, offering the same kind of purses so far is a pretty good thing,” trainer Pat Parente said.

Racing is scheduled for 1 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holiday Monday (May 20, July  1, Aug. 5, Sept. 2, and Oct. 14) for the entire meet.

Wednesday night racing, with a post time of 6:45 p.m., commences June 5, and will be conducted throughout the year, except for after a holiday Monday. Thursday racing has been dropped.

The centerpiece of the meet is the 154th running of the $1 million Queen’s Plate, which will be contested July 7. The current crop of Canadian-bred 3-year-olds appears strong, and some of the early contenders appear ably equipped to handle the 10-furlong distance of the Plate.

There are four other stakes scheduled for the Queen’s Plate program, including the Grade 2 Highlander and the Grade 2 Dance Smartly.

The $500,000 Woodbine Oaks falls on June 9, which gives the fillies ample time to run back in the Plate. That group of Canadian-breds also seems above average.

The highlight of the second half of the meet is the Sept. 15 Woodbine Mile, which was won last year by the brilliant Wise Dan, who went on to be voted the 2012 North American Horse of the Year.

The Grade 1 Woodbine Mile is one of five Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In turf stakes at the meet. The others are the Summer and Natalma, a pair of Grade 2’s for 2-year-olds; the Grade 1 Nearctic, and the Grade 2 Canadian.

The Grade 1 Canadian International and the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor have both been pushed back a week, to Oct. 20. The two important grass fixtures are no longer Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In events.

Woodbine has lowered the takeout on win betting by 2 percentage points to 14.95 percent, making it the lowest win takeout on the continent. All other takeout rates remain the same.

Woodbine also will guarantee the early pick-four pool at $100,000 on Saturdays and Sundays and will offer a 20-cent minimum on trifecta, pick three, pick four, and superfecta wagers.

Leinan heads the opening-day feature, the $150,000 Star Shoot Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

Owned by Jim and Alice Sapara, Leinan was among the better 2-year-old fillies on the grounds in 2012. She graduated at first asking at Keeneland in April and then got the summer off before ending up second in back-to-back allowances here early in the fall.

Leinan changed her front-running style and came from well off a lively pace to capture the seven-furlong Glorious Song Stakes in November.

This year, Leinan checked in sixth in the Sweetest Chant Stakes on the grass at Gulfstream Park, before finishing third in the OBS Sprint Stakes at the Ocala Training Center.

Luis Contreras, Woodbine’s leading jockey each of the past two years, will ride Leinan for trainer Josie Carroll.

There are two other stakes winners in the 57th running of the Star Shoot – Finding More and Just Got In.

Finding More ships in from Keeneland after a winter campaign at Fair Grounds, where she won the six-furlong Letellier Memorial Stakes Dec. 22. After a fifth in the Jan. 19 Silverbulletday Stakes, she was a distant sixth in the Grade  3 Rachel Alexandra, which was won by the unbeaten Unlimited Budget.

Finding More wired $62,500 maidens here on the Polytrack in September under Patrick Husbands, who will ride the Kellyn Gorder-trained filly Saturday.

Just Got In has been idle since finishing up the track in the Sept. 29 Presque Isle Downs Debutante. She captured her first two starts, most notably the five-furlong My Dear Stakes, before ending up a close second in the Aug. 11 Ontario Debutante Stakes.

Chris Griffith will get a leg up from his brother, trainer Ricky Griffith, on Just Got In, who wintered in Florida.

Miss Hemingway is a racing fit maiden who could hit the ticket. She returned from a nine-month absence to finish third in a five-furlong turf dash at Gulfstream on March 28.

Rootham Triple E’s led most of the way before securing second in the restricted Fanfreluche Stakes in October. She defeated Ontario-sired allowance opposition in another six-furlong sprint in her last outing Nov.  14.

Rounding out the field is Fun in D’ Sun, who capped her 2-year-old season with back-to-back thirds in a pair of allowance routes in November. She was competitive going short early in her career.