09/12/2013 4:06PM

Woodbine notes: Attfield trio takes aim at Canadian Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
No Explaining enters Sunday's Grade 2 Canadian Stakes off a win Aug. 3 in an optional claimer.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Stakes fields of modest size, unfortunately, were the main order of the day Thursday, with six entered in Sunday’s Woodbine Mile, seven in the Northern Dancer, and six in the Ontario Derby. But the Canadian Stakes had fared better when the entry box closed Thursday, as a field of nine fillies and mares was unveiled for the Grade 2, $300,000 turf race at 1 1/8 miles.

Three Canadian Stakes contestants are trained by Roger Attfield: No Explaining, Moment of Majesty, and Meri Shika. No Explaining could be the leader of the trio as she makes her fourth start after being away from the races for two years. The 6-year-old Irish-bred, owned by Dick Bonnycastle, had been scheduled to become a broodmare but fell ill and was not bred.

This spring, No Explaining rejoined Attfield’s string at Payson Park, and she returned to the races here June 22 with a second-place finish under allowance terms in an off-the-turf race at 1 1/8 miles.

Two weeks later, No Explaining swung back in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at 1 1/8 miles on grass and was third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Canadian Stakes favorite Solid Appeal.

Attfield then found another allowance spot for No Explaining, at one mile on turf, and watched her win for the first time since she became a stakes winner in Pimlico’s Grade 3 Galorette in May 2011.

“She’s doing well,” Attfield said. “She ran a good race last time, and she’s been training well since. We’ll see what happens.”

John Velazquez, here to ride Wise Dan in the Woodbine Mile, has picked up the mount on No Explaining.

Moment of Majesty moved into Attfield’s barn this summer after being purchased privately last fall by Nat Rea’s Regis Farm. The Ontario-foaled 6-year-old mare had finished third under allowance terms at Keeneland and eighth in the Dance Smartly before debuting for Attfield with a third-place finish, beaten a neck, in the Belle Mahone over 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.

“I think she’s doing very well, too,” Attfield said. “Her last race was a very good race, actually, and she’s trained back well from it. We’ll give her a shot at it.”

Emma-Jayne Wilson will be back aboard Moment of Majesty for the Canadian.

Meri Shika, who arrived from France on Tuesday evening after being purchased privately by Stella Perdomo, cantered on the turf Thursday morning under exercise rider Ally Walker.

Ladys First, who was supplemented to the Canadian Stakes at a cost of $6,000, also checked in from Europe on Tuesday. Alyson Deniel, an assistant to Ladys First’s trainer, Richard Fahey, who was here last year with Canadian Stakes winner Barefoot Lady, took her charge for a riding tour of the barn area and the Polytrack on Thursday.

Invading from south of the border for the Canadian Stakes are Colonial Flag and Minakshi, both trained by Michael Matz, and La Tia, who is based in Chicago with Armando de la Cerda.

The locally based Pure Blue Sky, coming off a third-place finish in the Flaming Page Stakes over 1 1/2 miles on turf, completes the field.

The Canadian will be the second leg of Sunday’s first pick four, which begins on race 4 and offers a $100,000 guarantee. The second pick four, which begins in the eighth race with the $300,000 Northern Dancer, offers a $200,000 guarantee.

The Woodbine Mile goes as race 10.

Attfield pair in Northern Dancer

Attfield also will send out Forte Dei Marmi and Perfect Timber for the Northern Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race that offers Grade 1 status and a purse of $300,000. Forte Dei Marmi will be seeking his third straight turf stakes win here after capturing the Grade 3 Singspiel at 1 1/2 miles and the Grade 2 Sky Classic at 1 1/4 miles.

The 7-year-old gelding is the 4-5 favorite on Woodbine oddsmaker Ernie Perri’s morning line and will have regular rider Eurico Rosa da Silva in the irons.

Perfect Timber, a 5-year-old with only five starts under his belt, finished second in the Singspiel and sixth in the Sky Classic. Velazquez has picked up the mount on the 12-1 morning-line chance.

Stormy Len, based at Belmont Park with trainer David Donk, is the only shipper for the Northern Dancer and comes off a second-place finish in Arlington’s Grade 1 Secretariat, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.

Garrett Gomez, here to ride Za Approval in the Woodbine Mile, has the mount.

Rounding out the field will be locals Hampstead Heath, Hotep, Irish Mission, and Turkish.

Hampstead Heath, second to Forte Dei Marmi in the Sky Classic, also has been entered in Saturday’s $250,000 PTHA President’s Cup at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Parx Racing, but his owner, Rob Smithen, is opting for the Northern Dancer.

Winning Cause favored in Derby

Winning Cause, invading from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher, will be the choice in the Ontario Derby. The Kentucky-bred has finished second in each of his two previous appearances here, beaten 4 3/4 lengths by Up With the Birds in the 1 1/16-mile Marine Stakes and 1 1/4 lengths by Five Iron in the 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park. Up With the Birds and Five Iron are the top two locally based 3-year-olds.

His Race to Win, a Sam-Son Farm homebred stablemate of Up With the Birds, will be looking for his first stakes win in the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby, a Grade 3 race worth $150,000.

“My horse is doing good,” trainer Malcolm Pierce said of His Race to Win. “He’s run some good races this year, like the Plate Trial.”

His Race to Win, who was coming off his maiden win at 1 1/16 miles, was beaten a nose as the runner-up to Dynamic Sky in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 9. The Queen’s Plate, however, turned out to be a letdown as His Race to Win never was in contention and finished almost 17 lengths behind the winner in sixth place.

“He was six wide all the way around,” Pierce said. “It’s not like he had a bad day; he just didn’t have anything go his way. He ran quite far, I thought.”

His Race to Win was back on the straight and narrow last time, driving to a two-length win in a 1 1/16-mile, first-level allowance race that included some decent older rivals.

Rounding out the Ontario Derby field will be Sky Commander, winner of Woodbine’s Charlie Barley Stakes by disqualification over one mile on turf for trainer Mark Casse; the shipper Coastal Breeze, stakes-placed on turf at Canterbury Park for trainer Wayne Catalano; Pyrite Mountain, winner of the Wando Stakes at a mile and 70 yards here this year for trainer Mark Frostad; and B E Boston Strong, a recent private purchase who will be making his local debut for owners Carlo and Lou Tucci and trainer Nick Gonzalez.