08/26/2013 1:17PM

Woodbine notes: Dimension might take on Wise Dan in Woodbine Mile

Michael Burns
Dimension, who won the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes on Sunday, might run next in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on Sept. 15.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Dimension became the first runner to start for trainer Conor Murphy when he finished fourth in a third-level allowance race at Keeneland last fall. On Sunday, Dimension became Murphy’s first stakes winner when he turned back all challengers for a 2 1/4-length victory under jockey David Moran here in the Grade 2, $201,600 Play the King.

The Play the King, at seven furlongs on turf, is the local stakes prep for the $1 million Woodbine Mile, a Grade 1 turf race Sept. 15 that is part of the Win and You’re In series for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. And while Dimension is no sure thing to return to Woodbine and face Wise Dan in the Woodbine Mile, Murphy certainly will take a longer look at the race following the 5-year-old gelding’s performance in the Play the King.

“If you’d asked me an hour ago, I’d have said, ‘No way,’ ” Murphy said just after Dimension’s victory. “Wise Dan is the best turf miler in North America, perhaps the best in the world. Now, I’ll at least nominate him. I’m not saying he can’t come back that quick, but he’s a better horse fresh, with four or five weeks between races.”

Taking a shot in the Woodbine Mile certainly would not be the first gamble for Murphy, a 29-year-old native of Cork, Ireland, who worked in the United States for trainers Niall O’Callaghan and David Carroll before accepting a position in England with trainer Nicky Henderson.

“It was a good job, and it was a great experience,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s time with Henderson also proved to be extremely lucrative, as he played a future-book five-race parlay, also known as an “accumulator,” and saw his 50-pound investment ($75) turn into 1 million pounds ($1.5 million) at the Cheltenham festival in March 2012.

That gave Murphy not only enough money to purchase Dimension and several other horses in England but also to open Riverside Bloodstock LLC, which focuses on breaking and training horses at Skylight Training Center near Louisville, Ky., in partnership with Justin Curran.

Murphy, who maintains a small stable of runners, won his first race with his eighth starter, the $5,000 claimer Gallant Eagle at Beulah Park on Feb. 23. He became interested in Woodbine for Dimension because of the layout of the E.P. Taylor turf course, with its sweeping turns and long stretch.

“I’d always wanted to try him on a ‘galloping,’ European-style track,” said Murphy, who first tested the local waters with Dimension in the Grade 3, 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture Stakes on July 17 and watched him finish a closing second, beaten a neck by two-time reigning sprint champion Essence Hit Man. “I ran him in the Polytrack race to see if he could compete at this level. He ran a great race.”

The locally based Excaper and Riding the River, separated by a half-length as the second and third finishers in the Play the King, also are candidates for the Woodbine Mile.

Excaper was looking for his first stakes win but instead finished second in a stakes for the sixth time.

“He always seems to run into something a bit better,” said Ian Black, who trains the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt for Richard Kaster and Frederick Wieting. “But I was happy with him. He ran quick. We’ll nominate him to the Woodbine Mile and have a look at it.”

Riding the River, in his first start under apprentice Skye Chernetz, was ninth in the field of 13 after the opening quarter-mile but rallied very wide and was gaining steadily through the stretch.

“I was really, really happy with him,” said Dave Cotey, who trains the Kentucky-bred 6-year-old gelding, whom he owns in partnership with Hugh Galbraith and Jim McNair. “He took about an eighth of a mile to get wound up and made up quite a few lengths. The extra furlong [of the Woodbine Mile] should help us.”

Riding the River finished fourth in last year’s Woodbine Mile, beaten 6 1/4 lengths by Wise Dan.

Both Black and Cotey also noted that the expected return of Wise Dan could be a deterrent to other potential shippers.

Go Blue Or Go Home, beaten six lengths when fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Play the King, will be heading in another direction.

“He’s going to go in the Phoenix,” said Reade Baker, who trains the Virginia-bred 4-year-old gelding for Jim and Susan Hill.

The Phoenix, to be run over six furongs on Keeneland’s Polytrack on Oct. 4, offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $200,000 and is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“You don’t have to guess what the surface is going to be like,” Baker said.

Reconnect gets first win of year

Reconnect, an Ontario-sired 5-year-old trained by Ashlee Brnjas, rallied determinedly under jockey Jesse Campbell to upset 2-5 favorite Sisterly Love in Sunday’s $114,400 Belle Mahone Stakes for fillies and mares.

The open, 1 1/16-mile Belle Mahone was the second stakes win for the homebred Reconnect, who had given Brnjas her first stakes score in the 2011 running of the one-mile La Prevoyante for Ontario-sired fillies over one mile on turf.

“She’s awesome,” said Brnjas, who trains Reconnect for the Colebrook Stable of her father, John Brnjas. “All she does is try.”

Reconnect was recording her first win in six starts this season but had finished second to a loose-on-the lead Sisterly Love in the 1 1/16-mile Trillium here June 8. Her Belle Mahone win was worth $72,000, including a $12,000 Ontario-foaled bonus, to bring her career bankroll to $385,327, with a record of 5-4-3 from 19 career starts.

“She’s probably going to Florida now,” said Ashlee Brnjas, noting that Colebrook is in the midst of establishing a division of 12 to 15 at Gulfstream Park with Amanda Bell, who has been the farm trainer and an assistant to Brnjas here.

Conquest Titan rewards investment

Conquest Titan gave trainer Mark Casse his meet-leading 13th stakes win when capturing last Saturday’s $125,500 Swynford, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-olds.

Purchased for $475,000 in Ocala, Fla., in March, Conquest Titan was making his second start for owners Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell after running fourth as the odds-on choice in his six-furlong debut at Churchill Downs on June 30. Eurico Rosa da Silva, guiding his meet-leading 16th stakes winner, was Conquest Titan’s jockey.