Highlander Stakes Odds & More Races from Woodbine

There is plenty to keep an eye on at Woodbine on Saturday, with a stakes-heavy card featuring action on the turf and the all-weather. Three-year-old colts and fillies make their way towards bigger things in the G3 Marine and the G3 Selene, while the evergreen Bound For Nowhere heads the cast-list in the G2 Highlander Stakes. The day’s true celebrity is Lady Speightspeare, a former Canadian champion who returns home with a favourite’s chance in the G2 Nassau.

Highlander Stakes

Grade 2, $200,000, 6f turf, 4yo+

Age is just a number, so they say, and it’s certainly true that some horses grow old more gracefully than others. Sprinters seem to cope with the passage of time more ably than route runners, and that can be seen in the Highlander Stakes, the highlight of a stakes-heavy card at Woodbine on Saturday.

He may be eight years old now but Bound For Nowhere holds his form very well, and got the job done in style on his 2022 debut, his first start for seven months, when making all in an allowance optional claimer at the Fair Grounds in March. Two runs earlier he was third in the G1 Jaipur at Belmont Park and although he needs careful management, with plenty of time between his races, his form reads very well at the slightly lower level of Canadian competition and his trainer Wesley Ward is a maestro with speed horses.

Last year’s Highlander Stakes winner Silent Poet is another greybeard with a spring in his step. He showed plenty of grit to hang on by a half-length 12 months ago, with Mark Casse-trained barnmates Chuck Willis sixth and Turned Aside – who returned to winning form in an allowance optional claimer here over the flying five last time, with Elektronik third, beaten a length and a quarter – last of eight. Silent Poet will appreciate being back on the lawn after running fifth in the G3 Jacques Cartier over course and distance on the all-weather surface.

The Jacques Cartier was won by Arzak, who hurried gate-to-wire for an impressive length-and-a-half defeat of Tap It To Win, who rallied late without delivering a serious challenge. Arzak had previously beaten Silent Poet in a stakes here over five and a half – with White Flag five lengths away in fourth – and is on a roll, but seems to prefer the synthetic surface.

Bizarrely, Tap It To Win was once fifth in a Belmont Stakes, although admittedly that was the mile-eighth version in the Covid year of 2020. He is the presumed leader of a five-strong block-booking from Casse, which also includes Into The Sunrise, who was beaten a half-length by Voodoo Zip in an allowance optional claimer at Belmont last time, and Olympic Runner, who gets Lasix first time on his return from a seven-month layoff, and was third in the G2 Nearctic over course and distance in October.

Like Bound For Nowhere, Voodoo Zip brings good Belmont form from below the border, winning six-furlong AOCs in two of his last three starts, although he makes his stakes debut today and probably needs to find a little more.

HORSEJOCKEYHORSE RACING ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS
Turned AsideEmma-Jayne Wilson+1200
Voodoo ZipDylan Davis+350
Chuck Willis (IRE)David Moran+1000
Into the SunrisePatrick Husbands+1000
Tap It to WinRafael Manuel Hernandez+800
White FlagDaisuke Fukumoto+2000
Silent PoetJustin Stein+1000
ElektronicEswan Flores+2000
Olympic RunnerAntonio A. Gallardo+1200
Bound for NowherePablo Morales+250
ArzakKazushi Kimura+350

Highlander Stakes Betting Prediction

With solid G1 form in the book and a recent victory under his belt, the veteran BOUND FOR NOWHERE looks to have a clear class edge over the local talent.

Nassau Stakes

Grade 2, $175,000, 1m turf, 4yo+ fillies/mares

The slight but definite difference in quality between the US and Canada is perfectly illustrated by Lady Speightspeare, who bids to maintain her unbeaten record at Woodbine in the Nassau.

The champion Canadian two-year-old filly of 2020 thanks to her G1 Natalma victory over course and distance, Lady Speightspeare also won last year’s G2 Bessarabian – La Libertee third, beaten five lengths – to go four-for-four at the Toronto circuit. She then headed south to seek fame and fortune in the US but has managed neither, losing five straight but never finishing outside the first four. There, in microcosm, is the difference between racing in the US and Canada.

Two runs ago Lady Speightspeare was third in the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland behind the in-form Regal Glory, and last time out she was fourth in the G2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs. She has clearly not lost her ability and will find this a welcome dose of class relief, although she is the only one in the field to run free of Lasix.

La Libertee has yet to make a breakthrough at stakes level but was a good third, beaten two necks, in the G2 Royal North here over six and a half furlongs last month, with Lady War Machine two lengths further back in seventh. Sprinting may be her game.

There is first-time Lasix for the lightly raced Crystal Cliffs, who is reaching her peak judged on her effort when runner-up in the G3 Gallorette over a mile-sixteenth at Pimlico in May, and when beating subsequent G3 winner Stolen Holiday in a stakes at Gulfstream Park in April. There may be more to come.

The best of the home defence could be Our Flash Drive, another with first-time Lasix, who belied her longshot odds when chasing home Rougir in the G3 Beaugay at Belmont Park in May, with Plum Ali a below-par last of seven. Our Flash Drive is unbeaten in three at Woodbine including the G3 Ontario Colleen over today’s distance, in which Perseverancia was fourth, beaten three and a quarter lengths, and her overall US/Canada record closely resembles that of Lady Speightspeare.

Plum Ali, who beat subsequent G3 winner Technical Analysis in a stakes at Aqueduct in April, can do better and also has first-time Lasix, although she often struggles to make an impact at Graded level in the US.

The consistent Dreaming Of Drew has only missed the board once in her life and returns to the weeds after some sterling performances on the all-weather track here, notably last time when making all to win a stakes over a mile-sixteenth, with Broadway Lady five lengths back in sixth. She missed her three-year-old campaign with injury and has scope for further improvement.

HORSEJOCKEYHORSE RACING ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS
Peace SeekerEswan Flores+2300
Lady SpeightspeareEmma-Jayne Wilson+350
Plum AliDylan Davis+525
Crystal Cliffs (FR)Rafael Manuel Hernandez+200
Lady War MachineJustin Stein+2300
PerseveranciaDaisuke Fukumoto+3300
Broadway LadyAntonio A. Gallardo+2300
Our Flash DrivePatrick Husbands+600
La LiberteeDavid Moran+1200
Saratoga VisionLuis Contreras+3300
Dreaming of DrewKazushi Kimura+450

Nassau Stakes Betting Pick

This has the potential to be a welcome-home party for LADY SPEIGHTSPEARE, who is unbeaten here and will find this easier than her recent tasks in the US.

Marine Stakes

Grade 3, $150,000, 1m 1/2f all-weather, 3yo

The Marine is a major prep for the Queen’s Plate, the oldest and most prestigious race in Canada, although several of today’s runners are ineligible for the grand old contest, which is restricted to horses foaled in Canada.

The morning-line favorite Rondure is a legitimate Plate prospect, being Ontario-bred. He broke his maiden at the third attempt here over seven furlongs, romping by more than ten lengths, and last month was narrowly denied on his graduation to stakes company, again over seven furlongs at this venue.

He came running fast and late but was a head short when the camera clicked, with the same margin back to Ironstone and another length and a quarter back to Duke Of Love. The extra yardage today will benefit Rondure and he is very much on the upgrade.

Ironstone has only missed the board once in eight races, but hasn’t yet regained the solid form he showed last year when runner-up in the G3 Grey here over a mile-sixteenth. He, too, will appreciate the step back up in distance, although he has less scope for improvement than several of his rivals.

Duke Of Love is such a horse, having only four runs under his belt, and on his previous start he posted an impressive victory in an allowance optional claimer here over six and a half furlongs in May, getting it done by five and a quarter lengths. He stretches out beyond a mile for the first time today.

The Kentucky-bred Fuerteventura won’t make the Queen’s Plate but has a leading chance here, looking for a four-timer following claimer wins at Gulfstream Park – one on a synthetic surface – and victory on his stakes debut at Monmouth Park, over a mile on turf. He showed plenty of willing there and is improving fast.

Also on the hunt for a four-timer is Lac Macaza, following a hat-trick in claiming grade over course and distance. He makes his stakes debut now and will need to pull out more.

Mark Casse puts two in the gate, his pair headed by the Irish-bred Mannix, well beaten on his only start in stakes company at Gulfstream before rebounding to win an allowance over course and distance in May. This requires improvement, although Mannix is certainly preferred to his barnmate Allegorical, who makes his stakes debut after shedding his maiden tag at the fourth attempt, rallying gamely to steal it by a neck over course and distance.

The field is completed by the Florida-bred and therefore Queen’s Plate ineligible Unraptured, three times a winner in minor grade at Golden Gate Fields but off the board in both tries in stakes company, including last time out when fifth over six furlongs here.

HORSEJOCKEYHORSE RACING ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS
IronstoneAdemar Santos+600
AllegoricalPatrick Husbands+1500
UnrapturedAntonio A. Gallardo+1500
RondureRafael Manuel Hernandez+250
FuerteventuraKazushi Kimura+300
Duke of LoveJustin Stein+350
Lac MacazaLuis Contreras+800
Mannix (IRE)Emma-Jayne Wilson+800

Marine Stakes Betting Choice

There are several progressive types here and the choice is FUERTEVENTURA, who already has a stakes win to his name and can complete a four-timer.

Selene Stakes

Grade 3, $150,000, 1m 1/2f all-weather, 3yo fillies

The Woodbine Oaks is the carrot for the runners in the Selene, the distaff equivalent of the Marine, and a little stardust is sprinkled over proceedings thanks to the presence of last year’s champion Canadian two-year-old filly.

The horse in question is Mrs Barbara, one of three contenders for Mark Casse, with those end-of-year honours clinched by way of victory in the G3 Mazarine over course and distance, when she held on grimly in the middle of a snowstorm to land the spoils by a half-length. Her barnmate Souper Hoity Toity was beaten three and a half lengths into fourth, has been off the track since that effort in late November, and is now getting Lasix for the first time.

Out of luck in two starts in the US this spring, Mrs Barbara showed signs of a revival last time when runner-up in a seven-furlong stakes on her return to Woodbine, with her other barnmate Join The Dance a neck behind in third on her stakes debut, and the extra yardage today will be right up her street.

She doesn’t rate as morning-line favourite, though, that position being filled by Catiche, who tore apart an allowance over course and distance in May when clearing right away to win by six and a quarter lengths. On her previous start she dead-heated for second place behind upset winner Candy Raid in the Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park, four and three-quarter lengths ahead of fifth-placed Mrs Barbara, and Catiche looks more than ready to move back into stakes company.

Josie Carroll is doubly represented and her main chance looks to be with Pioneer’s Edge, a maiden winner here over seven furlongs before moving into stakes company over the same course and distance and acquitting herself very well, rallying late to be beaten only a head.

Today’s longer distance should suit and she is narrowly preferred to barnmate Ephrata, zero-for-six in Britain last year before breaking her maiden by more than nine lengths on her first start in Canada, here over seven furlongs. Both fillies run Lasix-free.

Recent French import Gizala is also Lasix-free and makes her North American debut after going one-for-four in her native land, breaking her maiden at the third attempt on the all-weather surface at Chantilly before finishing sixth in a ten-furlong stakes on soft ground at Saint-Cloud. Today’s surface and cutback in distance are expected to suit.

Maiden winner Absolute Jewel got the job done at the second time of asking here over seven furlongs, looking promising when cruising to victory by three and a half lengths. This is a tough test on her stakes debut, however, and she may need an easier spot.

HORSEJOCKEYHORSE RACING ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS
Absolute JewelDaisuke Fukumoto+2000
Pioneer’s EdgeJustin Stein+400
Mrs. BarbaraRafael Manuel Hernandez+300
Ephrata (GB)Luis Contreras+800
Join the DanceEmma-Jayne Wilson+600
Gizala (IRE)Dylan Davis+800
Souper Hoity ToityPatrick Husbands+1000
CaticheKazushi Kimura+155

Selene Stakes Betting Pick

CATICHE finished in front of Mrs Barbara in a stakes at Turfway Park and can do the same again after her romping victory over course and distance last time.

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