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Woodbine: Smart Sting aces first test on Polytrack in Selene Stakes
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Roger Attfield opted to try Smart Sting on the Polytrack for the first time in Sunday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Selene Stakes. Any questions regarding surface wound up being incidental for Smart Sting, who was a convincing 3 1/2-length winner of the 1 1/16-mile Selene.
Smart Sting, a homebred who was foaled in Kentucky and races for Stronach Stable, had shown plenty of promise in her first six starts on turf but appeared to raise her game to a new level in the Selene by earning a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 90.
“This filly’s been training so very, very well,” said Attfield, who also had been looking at the previous weekend’s Pucker Up at Arlington Park on Smart Sting’s behalf.
“Whether she was going to run on Polytrack or turf, I thought she was going to run a huge race anyway. That’s why I decided to take a shot and run her in here. She ran to her works; that’s what it was.”
While Attfield was not overly surprised by the Smart Sting’s success, he had not anticipated the manner in which it was accomplished.
After displaying a rallying style in each of her previous career outings, Smart Sting took charge early in the Selene under jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva and, after turning back a challenge from Anne’s Beauty, proved much the best in the field of five 3-year-old fillies.
Anne’s Beauty held for second while finishing a neck before Inglorious, the Woodbine Oaks and Queen’s Plate winner who was suffering her first local defeat in six appearances.
“So often you read into these races and try to calculate how they may come up,” Attfield said. “Most of the time, it should be the jockey’s decision. You have to let the race unfold.
“Once she broke to the lead, and you could see how easy she was running, he just had to go on with her.”
Prior to the Selene, Attfield had mentioned tentative plans to go on to Keeneland with Smart Sting for the Grade 3, $150,000 Valley View, a 1 1/16-mile turf race Oct. 21.
Now, however, the playbook is open to revision.
“We’ve got a couple of surfaces we can look at now, whichever way we’re going,” Attfield said.
Honimiere dominates in Flaming Page
Attfield had the trio of Honimiere, Oregon Lady, and Thislilsoulofmine in Sunday’s $110,400 Flaming Page, an overnight stakes for fillies and mares scheduled for 1 1/2 miles of turf.
On Sunday morning, Attfield had mixed feelings when the Flaming Page was taken off the turf.
“Honimiere had one race in her life on Polytrack in Kempton, England, and she ran fourth,” Attfield said.
“Oregon Lady had run twice here on Polytrack, when she really wasn’t doing as well as she is now, so I threw that form out the window.
“Thislilsoulofmine had never run on it. I really liked her on turf.
“It was a stakes race, so I decided to give all three of them a shot at it.”
Attfield’s decision paid off as Honimiere led throughout with Da Silva in the irons for the first time to give Attfield his sixth win in 12 runnings of the Flaming Page. Honimiere won by a dominant 7 1/2 lengths.
“She doesn’t have a big turn of foot; she’ll just gallop all day long,” Attfield said. “The other two, I didn’t know how it was going to turn out.”
Oregon Lady outfinished Happy Clapper for second money in what was her first race on any surface beyond 1 3/16 miles, while Thisliloulofmine ended up 12 lengths behind the winner as the fourth-place finisher in the field of five.
“Oregon Lady ran well, but Thislilsoulofmine didn’t handle it at all,” said Attfield, who has no immediate plans for his Flaming Page runners.
“There’s the Dowager at Keeneland, there’s the E.P. Taylor here, there are a couple of races in New York, and there are races at Churchill Downs,” said Attfield, who also has the high-quality turf distaffers Perfect Shirl, Miss Keller, Mekong Melody, and Lady Shakespeare to work into the rotation.
Maker enjoys a big Saturday
Trainer Mike Maker wasn’t on hand for Derby Kitten’s victory in the $158,400 Ontario Derby here last Saturday.
But Maker can’t be faulted for his absence as he was somewhat busy at Turfway Park, sending out five winners, including a trio of stakes on the Kentucky Cup program.
Assistant Dave Kueffner deputized here for Maker, who watched the Ontario Derby on television in the Turfway Park paddock, where he was saddling two horses for the Kentucky Cup Sprint including the eventual winner Matthewsburg.
“He ran a tremendous race,” said Maker, with respect to Derby Kitten’s half-length win here under jockey Mike Smith.
Derby Kitten was winning his second race in as many starts on Polytrack, having captured Keeneland’s Grade 3 Lexington this spring.
“We’ll take a few days to think about what we’re going to do with him,” said Maker, who had campaigned Derby Kitten on the turf in his three starts prior to the Ontario Derby and been rewarded with a pair of third-place stakes finishes.
Maker mentioned the Grade 3, $175,000 Hawthorne Derby, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds on Oct. 15, and the Grade 2, $150,000 Fayette, a 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race for 3-year-olds and up at Keeneland on Oct. 29, as possibilities for Derby Kitten.
“It’s nice to be in this position,” Maker said.
In the meantime, Maker plans to ship up Stately Victor on Wednesday for next Sunday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Durham Cup over 1 1/8 miles of Polytrack.
Stately Victor won last year’s Ontario Derby and comes into the Durham Cup off a third-place finish in Del Mar’s Grade 1, 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic on Aug. 28.
Smith was aboard that day and retains the mount on Stately Victor, who had followed up his Ontario Derby victory with a third-place finish in last year’s Fayette.
Pender Harbour to get a break
Pender Harbour, who had been entered in both the Ontario Derby and the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, opted for Philadelphia and finished a non-threatening eighth under regular rider Luis Contreras.
“He acted up a little in the gate and got a bad start,” trainer Mike DePaulo said. “He was in behind horses, but they were humming up front and they kept going.”
Pender Harbour was back in his stall at Woodbine late Sunday afternoon.
“We’re probably going to give him a break and then we’ll see where we’re at,” DePaulo said.