The old bay mare, she ain’t what she used to be.
She is, in fact, better than ever.
Blue Heaven Farm’s seven-year-old bay mare Starship Jubilee stunned the field on Saturday in the $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile by winning the prestigious Grade 1 showcase ahead of a pair of highly touted Mark Casse entries — 2020 King Edward Stakes winner March to the Arch and 2019 Preakness champion War of Will. By beating the boys in the eight-horse field on the E.P. Taylor turf course, the Kevin Attard-trained daughter of Indy Wind became the oldest Woodbine Mile champion ever and improved her record to 19 wins in 38 starts, pushing her earnings to over $2 million. Not bad for a horse nobody seemed to want early in her career, who was claimed for a mere $16,000 in 2017 as a four-year-old filly by Kevin Attard’s father, Tino.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Kevin Attard told broadcaster Jason Portuondo of TSN/NBC. “You know, this mare doesn’t get the respect that she deserves. I was really disappointed to see her at 6-1 on the board. She was just kind of forgotten about. (But) time after time she comes up and proves that she’s a top horse in North America.”
As the field turned for home and passed three-quarters in 1:09.12, Stein searched for racing room and was able to find a seam to engage the front-runners, with Rafael Hernandez asking 2-1 favourite War of Will, and Patrick Husbands urging March to the Arch for their best turns of foot. Starship Jubilee soon seized control and powered home one length ahead of March to the Arch, with War of Will closely behind.
CLASSY WIN FOR A CLASSY JOCK
The favourite (1-1) Amsden, a son of American Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh, and Quick Tempo dueled throughout the $135,000 Ontario Racing Stakes for two-year-olds, but wore each other down in the stretch, bumping a couple times, while allowing the rest of the field to catch up. In the end, Hillsbrook Farms’ Credit River, with the classy Emma-Jayne Wilson on board, passed everyone on the outside with a major injection of speed to win his very first start at 41-1 odds, paying $84.20 to win. The victory marked the first stakes score for trainer Breeda Hayes. Credit River was bred in Ontario by Garland Williamson.
Wilson, along with other Woodbine riders, wore a black arm band in Saturday’s races in remembrance of renowned Irish jockey Pat Smullen, who died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday.
“If we could all strive to be like Pat, the world would be a better place,” said Wilson, who met Smullen at the famed Ascot course some years back. “He did some fantastic thing on horseback, but I think one of his greatest legacies was what he decided to do when he found out he was sick. He raised so much money for the research of pancreatic cancer and he fought the good fight. He fought hard. This one’s for you Pat. We’re all going to miss ya.”
COUNTING THE CASH AGAIN
Count Again, another long shot at 9-1, captured the $125,000 Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes on the turf with a solid ride by Luis Contreras for trainer Gail Cox and owner/breeder Sam-Son Farm. The five-year-old gelding avenged a neck loss his last start on Aug.29. Count Again has two wins, a second and a show finish in four starts this year.
CLEAN WIN FOR DIRTY DANGLE
Jockey Sheena Ryan continued her amazing return to racing by winning the $135,000 Woodbine Cares Stakes on the inner turf course with Dirty Dangle for owners C DeMizio and Mary Biamonte and trainer Ralph Biamonte thanks to an amazing charge down the stretch. Biamonte said Dirty Dangle was named in honour of his grandson Tyler Angle, a Columbus Blue Jackets draftee out of the Windsor Spitfires, who liked to use a ‘dirty dangle’ to deke out goaltenders.
The victory qualifies Starship Jubilee for the $2-million Breeders’ Cup FanDuel Mile at Keeneland on Nov.7.
“I’m just going to enjoy the moment right now, but obviously it’s a special feeling to know that this race has produced so many horses that have gone on to win the Breeders’ Cup,” said Attard, his voice cracking with emotion. “I’m really ecstatic right now, and obviously that’s somewhere we’ve been aiming to go all year long. This is just one step closer.”
“Sitting inside the three-eighths pole, around the 5/16ths pole I had tons, and I waited for a chance to tip her out and ask her to run,” said winning jockey Justin Stein. “She’s so honest and wants to win more than anybody else out there. I watched her replays, she’s just gritty. She just waited for her cue and took off like a scalded cat. She was gone,” added Stein, who guided Starship Jubilee across the wire in 1:32.06.
“I paid attention to what other people had said. I expected War of Will to be up there,” Stein told Woodbine’s Jeff Bratt. “Instead he was on my flank and we were in company down the backside, and Shirl’s Speight was up there and Admiralty Pier. It kind of shaped the way I thought. I was in great position and I was just happy with the trip I got.”
Starship Jubilee, Canada’s 2019 Horse of the Year, opened the 2020 campaign by winning four straight stakes races in the U.S. before finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes on Aug. 23 at Saratoga, but that didn’t deter Attard from bringing her home for the Woodbine Mile.