Kabel targets OaksJJockey seeks vindication aboard favoured Sphynx for tomorrow's race
By MIKE ULMER, TORONTO SUN
Finally, Todd Kabel has found something else to prove. The 38-year-old is the reigning Sovereign Award winner as the country's top jockey despite famously passing on Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando.
For good measure, Kabel is the track's runaway leading jockey with 45 wins, including four stakes victories.
Tomorrow, Kabel will ride 6-to-5 favourite Eye of the Sphynx at the Labatt Woodbine Oaks. The event, the eighth race of the day, will go off at 4:37 p.m.
The race is a turf event for three-year-old fillies foaled in Canada. By now, Kabel should be talking about creeping up on Sandy Hawley's record of eight Woodbine Oaks victories.
Kabel is particularly effective on grass and at one point this season rode seven successive winners on the turf.
"If you're the best jockey and you race the best horses on that surface, you're going to get the results," said trainer Mark Frostad, who put Kabel aboard the Sam-Son Farms horse.
But Kabel has only a win aboard Kirby's Song in 1998 to show for 12 starts in the Oaks.
Kabel feels a 1997 suspension for excessive use of the whip typecast him as a jockey who was too brutal with fillies.
"I love riding fillies but after that suspension, people looked at me differently. I think they felt I was too aggressive."
"People have to have a knock on you," Kabel's agent, John Bell, said. "He's as good on a filly as he is on a stud horse or a gelding and anyone who says he isn't has got to talk to me."
Officials suspended Kabel for 10 days and took the whip out of his hand for another 20 after a filly named Jades Pleasure showed bruising near her stomach.
Kabel wouldn't ride without a whip.
"We made a stand at the time," Bell said. "Todd felt, and I agreed, that it was unfair to the betting public. People would bet on you and not know you couldn't use a stick."
Kabel would ride Kirby's Song to his only Oaks win the following year but the image remained.
"It hurt our business for a while," Bell agreed.
Kabel stroked Eye of the Sphynx past Silver Bird, another Oaks entry, in the Selene Stakes on May 23. The win was her third in as many tries.
"She fell behind but when I gave her the whip she responded really well and won by a neck," Kabel said. "It's an individual thing, how you handle any horse. I was on a filly a few days ago, I gave her the whip and she put her ears up as if to tell me 'that's as fast as I'm going to go.' You have to be able to read each individual horse."
The Oaks field was whittled to five when Augustin Stable's Nashinda was pulled out of the race after a training injury on Thursday morning.
"With Nashinda out of it, it's a different race," Kabel said. "She was a speed horse and we were hoping to track her. Now we'll have to look to someone different."
Silver Bird, ridden by Jim McAleney, was listed yesterday at 2-1 followed by Hong Kong Dancer (7-2), My Vintage Port (6-1), and long-shot Touchnow (15-1), ridden by Patrick Husbands.
Kabel, meanwhile, attributes this year's dominance to a more aggressive posture.
"I changed my style over the winter. I've always been a patient rider but I was a bit too patient sometimes and left myself out of position. I felt the other riders were getting me a little down pat."
Not any more.
A win tomorrow on Eye of the Sphynx would help Kabel outrun the last criticism left standing.