Breeders' Cup rule changes help Canadian horse racing

RICHARD MAUNTAH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

TORONTO - If a horse ran in the top three in a U.S. graded stakes race, they got points towards qualifying for the Breeders’ Cup. For Canada’s 33 graded stakes races, that was not the case.

That changed Wednesday, retroactive to the start of the year, and it can only benefit local racing.

“Canadian breeders and owners have been an important part of the Breeders’ Cup program since its inception,” Breeders’ Cup president Craig Fravel said, “and we believe this change will further encourage Canadian participation in the Championships.”

Six local races are already part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, so the winners of those races automatically qualify. But the added importance of the remaining 25 local races (the Canadian Derby at Northlands and B.C. Derby at Hastings being the others), gives local horsemen, with a performer good enough, incentive to run them into qualification. And for U.S. connections, it’s an incentive to give local racing fans a chance to see their Cup-worthy performers.

The final jewel

There’s still the possibility of a Canadian Triple Crown winner this year ... jockey Luis Contreras.

Woodbine’s leading rider will again be aboard Pender Harbour in the 11/2-mile Breeders Stakes, looking to become the first rider to win the triple crown riding two horses. He rode Inglorious to victory in the Queen’s Plate.

The $500,000 turf event drew a field of 14. Hippolytus, the runner-up in the Plate who was fourth in the Prince of Wales, will try again. Queen’splatekitten, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt who was fifth in the Plate, has a win in three turf tries. Celtic Conviction is an interesting Mike Doyle-trained gelding who won the Cup and Saucer last year at 43-1 and recently finished second in the Toronto Cup at 31-1. And trainer Roger Attfield will try for his ninth Breeders with a maiden named Diego Bay, who has shown he likes going long.

Taking a shot

Whiskey Tax will carry Canada’s colours in Saturday’s $1.5-million Hambletonian final at the Meadowlands but will be a rank outsider. Tom Durand of Puslinch, Ont. trains the gelding which he owns with wife June along with Allan Smith of Oakville. Randy Waples will drive. The son of Revenue finished fifth in his elimination heat last Saturday and has a record of two wins from 16 starts. As for the horses expected to see more action at the windows, Manofmanymissions, who captured the Breeder’s Crown last season, comes off an elimination win in 1:524/5 and is the 9-5 morning-line choice for the brother combination of trainer Erv and driver Andy Miller. He will start from post two next door to Broad Bahn, who won his elimination in 1:53 with George Brennan driving and gave trainer Noel Daley first selection in the draw. It was a no-brainer.

“My first inclination was to go for the rail,” Daley said. “We either want to be on the lead or close to it. We got the gate speed. Touch wood, he seems safe.”

“Two of his wins were right on the front and he’s certainly earned a pole position,” added Brennan.

Jersey girls

O’Brien Award-winner Crys Dream is the 7-5 early favourite in the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks. Luc Ouellette will drive the filly who has suffered only one defeat in 13 starts and who won the Elegantimage at Mohawk in mid-June. She and co-elimination winner Iron Lady are both co-owned by Reve Avec Moi Dreamwithme Stable of Grand Valley, Ont. Several other horses in the race have Canadian connections. The spectacular card at the Big M starts at 11:30 on Saturday and both the Hambletonian and Oaks will be shown on NBC from 3-4 p.m.

In town

In addition to the Breeders, five two-year-old fillies square off in Sunday’s Nandi Stakes at Woodbine while Sand Cove tries to win the Seagram Cup for the second straight year on Saturday.

Out of town

The $750,000 Whitney at Saratoga on Saturday will be interesting. Flat Out, Giant Oak, Tizway, Mission Impazible, and Apart are the tepid choices in a deep 11-horse field. A field of 10 will go in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby, part of an all-stakes Saturday at Mountaineer Park. And on Sunday, former Woodbine rider Chantal Sutherland will go head to head with former fiancée Mike Smith in a match race at Del Mar for reasons known only to the track’s promotions department.


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