Woodbine set for big showdown

RICHARD MAUNTAH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

In 1964, Northern Dancer was named Canada's Horse of the Year. So fittingly in the race named in his honour, the two leading contenders for this year's top prize will square off.

Jambalaya and Sky Conqueror drew posts two and seven respectively for Sunday's $700,000 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf at Woodbine, both hoping for a better result than the last time they met.

Five-year-old gelding Jambalaya surged to prominence in February, capturing the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders Cup Turf in Florida. He followed that up with a win in the Grade 3 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream.

"Over the winter he really enjoyed his trips to Gulfstream," trainer Catherine Day Phillips said. "He's more mature this year."

Sky Conqueror, who took the inaugural Northern Dancer last year, made his statement in front of nearly 150,000 at Churchill Downs in May when he captured the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, the race preceding the Kentucky Derby, in last-to-first fashion.

"He's the type of horse that makes our hearts skip a beat when he's approaching the finish line," trainer Darwin Banach said.

They met in the King Edward Breeders' Cup at Woodbine on July 7 at 11/8-miles, shorter than either of them like. Sky Conqueror was beaten by a nose by Eccentric with Jambalaya a neck back in third.

"The mile-and-an-eighth is not his best distance," Banach said of Sky Conqueror. "He just couldn't quite get up in time."

Trainer Roger Attfield has a pair in the race, Singspiel Stakes winner Pellegrino and newcomer The Carbon Unit, who has not won since 2005.

The rest of the field consists of Obrigado, a Neil Drysdale trainee shipping in from California, Sam-Son Farms runner French Beret, Last Answer, who was last year's runner-up, and Marsh Side, who shipped to Woodbine to capture the Valedictory Stakes last fall.

There are three more stakes on Sunday's card but the most anticipated is the Dance Smartly Stakes where 2006 Canadian Horse of the Year Arravale will make her seasonal debut.

Bill Hartack, who rode Northern Dancer to all his famous wins, assisted in yesterday's post-position draw and will sign autographs on Sunday. The race will be carried by The Score starting at 4:30 p.m.


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