Updated on 07/01/2012 11:41AM

Woodbine: Northern Passion scratched from Bison City Stakes

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Michael Burns
Northern Passion was second in the Woodbine Oaks and is back for the Bison City, the second leg of the triple tiara for 3-year-old Canadian-bred fillies.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario -- Northern Passion, who was the 7-5 morning-line favorite for Sunday's $250,000 Bison City at Woodbine, has been scratched.

"She just seemed under the weather, and wasn't herself this morning," said Mark Casse, who trains Northern Passion for John Oxley. "I elected to go ahead and scratch her. I'd just been kind of so-so on the way she'd trained up to this race."

Northern Passion had finished second in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks, which precedes the Bison City as the first leg of the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Casse still has a Bison City representative in Black Bird Rock, who was a close fourth in the June 3 Woodbine Oaks for owner/breeder Eugene Melnyk.

A field of just five now will go postward in the 1 1/16-mile Bison City.

Woodbine Oaks winner Irish Mission went on to finish a bang-up second in last Sunday’s Queen’s Plate, and the Oaks fifth, Dixie Strike, was a closing third in the Plate, which shows how difficult the Oaks came up.

Northern Passion ran spottily over the winter before shipping back here to take the seven-furlong Fury Stakes on April 29. She was a charging second in the nine-furlong Oaks, beaten just three-quarters of a length under Luis Contreras.

Black Bird Rock inherited the lead in the Oaks and proceeded to set moderate fractions before fading to fourth in just her third career start.

“I thought she ran extremely well,” Casse said. “If you throw out her first start, which was nothing, she came back and had a real troubled trip to break her maiden. Going right in against the caliber of horses that she ran against in the Oaks shows you how good her race was.”

Casse raved about Black Bird Rock’s progress leading up the Bison City, in which she will shed her blinkers.

“She’s just gotten bigger and stronger,” Casse said. “I think she could be the horse to beat. Northern Passion may have her hands full with her.”

Blue Heart, last year’s Mazarine Stakes winner, is starting for the second time this year after finishing a close second in the 6 1/2-furlong Alywow Stakes over a turf course labeled good.

Trainer Brian Lynch said he was content with Blue Heart’s performance in the June 3 Alywow.

“We were looking to get a race into her somewhere,” Lynch said. “It was a heavy track, and she was a bit tired towards the end, but I was happy with her effort. She’s going into this in good order. Hopefully, she’s a fresh filly, and these other fillies have been running pretty hard.”

Lynch said Blue Heart got a late start to her season because of bone bruising that was diagnosed in the fall.

“We gave her plenty of time, maybe a little more than we would have liked,” Lynch recalled. “We lost all hope getting to the Oaks. We kept the Bison City in mind and tried to get her ready for that. She’s been hiccup-free, so everything seems to be on schedule for the race.”

The other protagonist in the six-horse field is Awesome Fire, who seemed poised to win the Oaks in midstretch, but settled for third while beaten just a head by Northern Passion.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink