07/29/2013 1:04PM

Woodbine: Moonlit Beauty, Reconnect meet again in Victoriana Stakes

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Michael Burns
Moonlit Beauty is winless in four starts since capturing the Classy ‘n Smart Stakes last September.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Moonlit Beauty and Reconnect, the top two finishers in last year’s $125,000 Victoriana Stakes, will renew their rivalry here Wednesday evening in the 1 1/16-mile turf feature for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

The circumstances would seem to favor Reconnect on this occasion, as the free-wheeling Moonlit Beauty is likely to face pace pressure from the like-minded Hobnobsnob and Consecutive after breaking from the No. 1 post in a field of 13.

Reconnect finished last of five in her last race, beaten 3 1/4 lengths while competing under third-level allowance terms at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack. Ashlee Brnjas, who trains the homebred 5-year-old Reconnect for her father, John Brnjas, said she was a victim of a very slow pace in that July 1 race, which came against male horses.

“She’s been doing great,” said Ashlee Brnjas. “I put her in against the boys last time, which was maybe not the right thing to do, but there was no place to run her.

“She needs something to run at. Those were terrible fractions for her.”

Reconnect finished second while facing open female company in her first two starts at the meeting, in the 1 1/16-mile Trilllium Stakes prep and the Trillium itself. Both races were on Polytrack.

“I think she’s better on turf,” said Brnjas, who celebrated her first stakes score when Reconnect won the La Prevoyante over one mile on grass here in September 2011.

Jesse Campbell, aboard for her three outings this year, retains the mount on Reconnect.

Moonlit Beauty, trained by John LeBlanc, had led by 3 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go in last year’s Victoriana and hung on to prevail by a head under returning rider Eurico Rosa da Silva.

The following month, Moonlit Beauty again made all the pace and drew off to a 4 3/4-length score in the restricted Classy ‘n Smart Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack, with It’s Gail and Reconnect giving futile chase and finishing second and third.

Moonlit Beauty, 7, is stretching out off a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Zadracarta Stakes, a restricted seven-furlong turf race that was her second start of the season.

“She’s training super; I’m very happy with her fitness,” said LeBlanc, who conditions Moonlit Beauty for owner and breeder Bill Gierkink. “The No. 1 post is not ideal. It’s a long time for us to be sitting in the gate, and if we don’t get a clean break, we’ll have some traffic to deal with.”

Hobnobsnob, a 4-year-old trained by Earl Barnett, has raced to two front-running turf wins in as many outings this year, winning a second-level allowance at seven furlongs and then repeating at the same level at 1 1/16 miles. Returning rider Gerry Olguin was aboard for both victories.

It’s Gail, a 4-year-old trained by Bob Tiller, won the Eternal Search Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the main track last year and finished second in the La Prevoyante, which was won by her stablemate Nikkis Bold Gelato.

Bear’s Gem also is a stakes winner, having captured the six-furlong Ballade in her 2013 debut.