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Woodbine notes: Strut the Course enters Lady Angela Stakes off impressive win
By Bill Tallon
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Strut the Course, a smart winner of her 2013 debut at seven furlongs, will look to punch her ticket to the June 9 Woodbine Oaks with a strong performance here in Saturday’s $125,000 Lady Angela.
“I liked the way she won; she was supposed to win it like that,” Barbara Minshall, who conditions the homebred Strut the Course for John Unger, said of the filly’s 5 1/4-length win over first-level restricted allowance company here May 5.
The Lady Angela, also at seven furlongs, is for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies, while the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks is for Canadian-breds and offers a purse of $500,000.
Strut the Course closed out her four-race campaign here last year with a solid second-place finish behind Woodbine Oaks contender Nipissing in the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth Stakes. She wintered at Webb Carroll’s farm in North Carolina and has been back here since early April.
“There’s no question she’s a two-turn filly,” Minshall said. “If it’s all-systems-go after this race, she’ll go to the Oaks.”
Tyler Pizarro, who guided Strut the Course to her recent success, retains the mount, and the pair will begin from post 1.
Rootham Triple E’s, trained by Sam DiPasquale, is the only stakes winner in the field by virtue of her score in the open six-furlong Star Shoot here April 20.
After pressing a quick pace in the Star Shoot, Rootham Triple E’s found herself stalking through moderate fractions in the seven-furlong Fury Stakes and failed to muster a rally in finishing sixth of eight.
Justin Stein, who was aboard for the Star Shoot, was in the irons when Rootham Triple E’s drilled five furlongs in 59 seconds last Saturday, the fastest of 77 works at the distance that day.
“It was a big work – maybe too big,” DiPasquale said. “We tried to settle her a little bit last time, but if I didn’t take too much out of her, she isn’t going to be rating again.”
Stein and Rootham Triple E’s drew post 4.
Nahima, trained by Mark Casse, was the runner-up to Strut the Course in the May 5 race, beaten 5 1/4 lengths. Eurico Rosa da Silva replaces the injured Patrick Husbands in the saddle.
I’m a Kitty Hawk, trained by Franz Crean, and Pipers Future, conditioned by Danny Vella, both were impressive maiden winners here in their 2013 debuts, while Seaboa is coming off a first-level restricted allowance score for Bob Tiller.
Reel Good Movie, a maiden, rounds out the field.
Baker high on Solid Appeal
The Grade 2, $200,000 Nassau Stakes also will be run here Saturday, and trainer Reade Baker has a solid contender for the one-mile filly-and-mare turf race in Solid Appeal.
A Kentucky-bred 4-year-old who races for Jim and Susan Hill, Solid Appeal won her maiden and a second-level allowance on turf here last year and ended her campaign with a good fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere over 1 1/16 miles of grass at Churchill Downs.
Returning to action at Keeneland on April 24, Solid Appeal rallied from last in a field of eight to score going away by 2 1/2 lengths.
“It was amazing,” Baker said. “Around the turn, she seemed to be struggling. It looked like she wasn’t handling the racetrack. Then she took off. Up until that last race, I was positive she was a better horse on turf. Now, I’m not sure.”
Jesse Campbell, who rode Solid Appeal to her maiden victory, regains the mount.
Valentino Beauty tries to stay perfect
Minshall has a serious contender for Sunday’s Grade 2 Connaught Cup, as Valentino Beauty will look to remain undefeated while making his fourth career start in the $200,000 turf race for 4-year-olds and up at seven furlongs.
Bred in Kentucky by his owner, Bruce Lunsford, Valentino Beauty won at first asking while in for a $47,500 claiming tag in a one-mile turf race here Sept. 1. He returned four weeks later to win a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on the same surface.
“We wanted to give him some time off after that,” Minshall said.
Resurfacing at Keeneland this spring with another of Lunsford’s trainers, Tom Drury, Valentino Beauty overcame traffic trouble to score a head victory in a second-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
“Bruce decided to send him back up here for the turf program,” Minshall said. “He’s doing great. He’s a good horse.”
Jim McAleney, who steered Valentino Beauty to his first two wins, regains the mount.
Entered to face Valentino Beauty are shippers Artest and Upgrade, both trained by Michelle Nihei; the Baker-trained Bear No Joke and Bear Tough Tiger; defending male turf champion Riding the River; Something Extra; Hote; Arctic Fern; and Lockout.
Midnight Aria eyes Plate Trial
Sunday’s card also features the $150,000 Marine, an open 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds that serves as a stepping-stone to the $1 million Queen’s Plate here July 7.
Canadian-breds Up With the Birds, Drenched, and Silent Admirer all will be looking toward the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate in the Marine.
Rounding out the field are American-breds Winning Cause, shipping in from Saratoga for conditioner Todd Pletcher; Ghost Hunter, a recent arrival to the barn of Dave Cotey; and locally based Five Iron.
Midnight Aria, trained by Nick Gonzalez, was nominated to the Marine but is awaiting the $150,000 Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here June 9.
“I believe he’s better going a mile and an eighth,” said Martha Gonzalez, the wife and assistant to Nick Gonzalez, who sent out Midnight Aria to breeze five furlongs in 1:02 here Thursday.
Exercise rider Darren Fortune was aboard for the drill, and Campbell has the call for the Plate Trial.
“He breezed beautiful and galloped out real strong,” Martha Gonzalez said.
Claimed for $35,000 at Gulfstream Park in January, Midnight Aria won his maiden over 1 1/8 miles of slop in his first start for owners Carlos and Lou Tucci and then finished third under starter-allowance terms in turf races at one mile and 1 1/16 miles.
In his local debut, which came in the 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes on May 5, Midnight Aria set the pace and finished a solid third behind Plate Trial contender Pyrite Mountain and Uncaptured, who is off the Queen’s Plate trail and eyeing the June 15 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs.
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