07/26/2013 8:18AM

Woodbine: Roxy Gap makes seasonal debut in Royal North Stakes

Michael Burns
Roxy Gap will be looking for a repeat victory in the Grade 3 Royal North Stakes on Sunday at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Roxy Gap, a dual Canadian champion in 2012, makes her belated season debut Sunday at Woodbine in the $150,000 Royal North Stakes, a six-furlong turf sprint that she won last year.

Roxy Gap was voted the Sovereign Award for champion female sprinter and champion older female last year, during which she won 3 of 9 starts and $523,173. She beat a quality field in last year’s Grade 3 Royal North, but her best effort may have come at a mile on soft ground in the Grade 2 Nassau Stakes, in which she ran second to the brilliant Marketing Mix.

Roxy Gap, 5, brought $850,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale as a broodmare/racing prospect in February, but was subsequently returned to owner Eugene Melnyk.

“Shortly after she was purchased and went back into training, she was not sound, so Eugene took her back,” trainer Mark Casse said. “They never did figure out what happened to her. That’s why she’s been so long getting started, because she missed some time at the beginning of the year. She’s training really well, and I’m excited to get her going again. I think she’s bigger and stronger than she was last year.”

Casse said Roxy Gap tailed off last fall because she had to carry high weight of 124 pounds in several races.

“The way our system works, the more you win, the more they want you to get beat by putting more and more weight on,” Casse said. “She’s not a big filly, but was giving away a lot of weight, and she’d had a long season. The one thing about not running for a while is she’s going to get a weight allowance, which puts her back at a fair level.”

Roxy Gap will carry 118 pounds in the Royal North and be ridden by Luis Contreras.

Why Katherine captured three one-mile turf events over the winter at Gulfstream Park before narrowly losing a one-mile allowance and the seven-furlong Zadracarta Stakes here in the spring.

“We looked at the [Royal North] noms and thought we’d give it a shot,” trainer Kevin Attard said. “We’d rather hook Roxy Gap in her first start of the year than when she’s had a couple races. [Why Katherine] has been training well. She had a great breeze the other day.”

Attard said turning back to six furlongs might be suitable for Why Katherine.

“She may be able to handle it on our course,” Attard said. “She’s been getting nailed on the wire on this course, and our intent was to take her off the pace in the Zadracarta. It worked, but maybe she got to the front a tad earlier than we would have liked. There’s a chance the speed will get away from her the first part of this race, and she’ll have a better chance to close.”

The two shippers in the lineup are multiple stakes winner Sensible Lady and Cat Lore, who won a recent optional-claiming sprint at Arlington Park.

Sensible Lady, a closer trained by Alan Goldberg, won the five-furlong Buckland Stakes last time out at Colonial Downs.

Heavenly Pride was supplemented at a cost of $3,000.