One of three scenarios will happen in Sunday’s Woodbine Oaks:
1. Dixie Strike will win the $500,000 race as expected and likely head to the Queen’s Plate as the possible favourite.
2. Northern Passion will get the better of her stablemate and justify trainer Mark Casse’s excitement about her five-furlong workout last week.
3. We’ll all discover a new star who may not have the impressive past-performance lines just yet. And there’s no reason Irish Mission can’t be that star.
And a huge star she would be, as in, she’s a striking 17 hands high.
“She was a little backwards for a while because of her size,” trainer Mark Frostad told Woodbine Entertainment. “But she’s finally coming along.”
It took quite a while to get her going. Poor efforts in her first two starts last year, she improved enough to be given a shot in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes where she ended fifth in an eight-horse field.
She finally showed development in March when narrowly losing at Gulfstream Park then finally put it together in her sixth lifetime start in late April at Keeneland. Both those efforts came on the turf but the time has come for Irish Mission to prove she can do it on the polytrack as well.
“It took her a long time to come around, but we’re pleased with how she continues to get better,” Frostad said.
Alex Solis, who has recently moved his tack to Ontario, will ride.
GETTING THE SHINE BACK
Rose and Shine won the Princess Elizabeth, which is the premier race for Canadian-foaled two-year-old fillies. She also won the Muskoka Stakes for yearling-sales graduates earlier in her two-year-old year. She has disappointed since but perhaps the longer distance will help her.
“We’ve put a lot of long, slow gallops into her trying to build her stamina,” trainer Ralph Biamonte said. “She won’t get tired. She takes good care of herself.”
The road to the Queen’s Plate is usually about horses who appear to be on the improve heading into the race and one horse who fits that bill in Sunday’s $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes is Big Creek. The son of Indian Charlie took five starts to break his maiden but followed that up with a strong third-place effort in the Wando Stakes. With the defection of Marine Stakes winner Strait of Dover, a field of 11 will contest the Plate Trial. Beeker Street is the mild 3-1 morning-line favourite.
The third event on the card is the $100,000 Alywow Stakes, which unless weather dictates otherwise, will be the turf debut of Tu Endei Wei, last year’s champion two-year-old filly who was soundly beaten by Dixie Strike in the Selene Stakes in her last start.
Marketing Mix with Julien Leparoux aboard, hunted down Roxy Gap in deep stretch to win the $300,000 Nassau Stakes at Woodbine Saturday. The Ontario-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro captured her sixth lifetime win in 12 starts with earnings exceeding $700,000. 2011 Queen’s Plate winner Inglorious never quickened in the stretch, ending fourth.
ANYWHERE ON TIME
Four-year-old filly Anywhere captured the $125,000 Bellade Stakes with Luis Contreras aboard for trainer Bob Tiller. It was the stakes debut for the daughter of Where’s The Ring.