With the Queen's Plate a week away it would be easy to overlook Sunday's card at Woodbine which featured the Victoria Park and King Edward Stakes. However, I suspect that we'll look back on this day a little down the road and take note of the continued emergence of Todd Pletcher's Exhi and Mark Frostad's Grand Adventure.
Exhi has really enjoyed his two trips to Woodbine
Let's start with Exhi. The three year-old son of Maria's Mon is now two-for two on the Woodbine surface after winning the mile and an eighth Victoria Park for fun over a compact field of four. It was such an easy win for the colt that there's not much to write except that he won, wire-to-wire, never challenged. But this is no soft horse. Exhi has been in good company this season having finished second to Kentucky Derby contender Odysseus first out at Tampa back in February.
Since that loss, Exhi has raced undefeated with a win in the Rushaway at Turfway on March 27th, the G2 Lexington over Bushwhacked and Derby trail horse Uptowncharlybrown at Keeneland on April 17th, and then dusted a pair of Canada's best three year-olds in Hotep and Essence Hit Man to win the Marine back on May 29th.
For a little further class check, I'll point out that Exhi is a horse who broke his maiden by four lengths over Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer on the Belmont turf as a two year-old. So the question is, just how good is this horse?
Exhi could stay at Woodbine and dominate on the polytrack which he loves and possibly make a dent on the turf given that maiden breaking effort. However, this Kentucky-bred is clearly on the upswing and it would not surprise me to see him show up at Saratoga for a second crack at his U.S triple crown comrades.
Exhi wins the Victoria Park Stakes with ease
And that brings us to our second stakes winner on Sunday. Grand Adventure, a four year-old son of Grand Slam, has done a lot of growing up in the past year. As a two year-old, the Sam-Son Farms colt demonstrated powerful turf form breaking his maiden going seven furlongs in his first start. His next outing would be a surprise win in the G3 Summer Stakes over Skipadate earning the horse a berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf where Grand Adventure showed early speed before fading to finish tenth.
Grand Adventure keeps improving
As a three year-old, Grand Adventure started well enough winning an allowance turf sprint against older before getting stuck into a very tough campaign. Grand Adventure made the pace in the G1 Woodbine Mile won by Ventura. The horse was flying late in the G2 Nearctic only to hit traffic trouble eventually finishing sixth, though less than three lengths back, to the excellent Field Commission. His three year-old season ended with a second place finish in the Bonapaw at the Fair Grounds to Grand Traverse. It was a disappointing season really with only $52K in earnings.
However, Grand Adventure has blossomed as a four year-old. After a fifth place finish on the dirt at Fair Grounds, Grand Adventure put up quite the fight finishing second in the G3 Shakertown at Keeneland losing by a neck to Silver Timber. The four year-old then returned to Woodbine and demonstrated his new found maturity with a confident looping win in the Connaught Cup over a salty field that included Field Commission, Jungle Wave and Rahy's Attorney.
Sunday's King Edward could have been a stepping stone for Get Stormy to build on a five-race win streak, or for Rahy's Attorney to get back on track by defending his King Eddy crown but instead it was Grand Adventure who pressed the early pace and then doggedly refused to let go of the lead once claimed at the top of the stretch. Jockey Rob Landry and Rahy's Attorney threw everything but the kitchen sink at Husbands and Grand Adventure but it wasn't until after the wire that the Sam-Son colt finally relented. (As predicted by TripleDeadHeat!)
With a pair of graded wins under his belt, Grand Adventure is well on course for a second attempt at the GI Woodbine Mile which will be held on September 19th.
Next Sunday, Canada will crown a new Queen's Plate hero but let's not be too quick to dismiss a pair of great efforts by a potentially great duo on the day at Woodbine.
Grand Adventure defeats defending champ Rahy's Attorney in the King Edward Stakes
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And with the hyperbole out of the way, let's get on with the photo show. It was cloudy, muggy and the turf was in good condition for the King Edward Stakes. Thanks to the G20 debacle (can we please try a video conference next time?), and a few tears over the mess that was England v Germany, I arrived at Woodbine just two minutes before the Victoria Park stakes.
(As always, please double left click the photo to enlarge the photo and then use your "Back" button to return to the blog post. Enjoy!)
Exhi leads the pack past the wire for the first time
Where is everyone? Exhi races down the stretch unchallenged
At the wire it's Exhi by a country mile
Jockey Robby Albarado was happy with that effort
If you were happy with Albarado's efforts why not check out the jock's charitable work on the Robby Albarado Foundation Facebook Page.
Exhi cools off after a hard day's work
The connections pose in the winners circle with victorious Exhi
While Woodbine patrons were busy watching the races, I found a spot in front of a television and watched Argentina run rampant over Mexico in their World Cup match. With a roast beef sandwich in hand, world cup soccer on the telly, racing on satellite from around the globe, and the best turf course in North America yards away - I considered moving in for the rest of the World Cup tournament. But then figured I best get out to the walking ring and check out the contenders for the King Eddy.
Grand Adventure seems pretty sure of himself here
Ice Bear has his eye on something in the parking lot as Chantal Sutherland and Mac Benson discuss tactics
Check out the checkerboard on Rahy's Attorney
Society's Chairman likes his hair parted to the left
Trainer Tom Bush gives last minute instructions to Javier Castellano
Chantal Sutherland and Ice Bear prepared for a big effort
Albarado still on a high from the Exhi win guides Cherokee Heaven to the track
A confident Patrick Husbands and Grand Adventure teamed up to win the Connaught Cup in their last start...
Jock Eurico Rosa da Silva can't seem to get a leg up from Leroy Trotman...
Phew! Up he goes!
It's the headless horse, man!
Strike Again really doesn't want his picture taken today
Javier Castellano and Get Stormy enjoying the sunshine
Jono Jones and Society's Chairman prepare for battle
Grand Adventure and Rahy's Attorney battle it out in the stretch
But at the wire it's Grand Adventure
Patrick Husbands takes a look back to see just how close Rahy's Attorney and Ice Bear got to Grand Adventure
Get Stormy gets to the wire just in front of Society's Chairman
Jimmy Simms and Jimmy Mac will hope for better next out
Back to the winners circle for Sam-Son Farms Grand Adventure
Sam-Son Farms hope to be back in the winners circle next Sunday...in the Queen's Plate!
Grand Adventure cleans up after cleaning up in the King Edward
Grand Adventure heads home after a satisfying day at the office
Thus ends another day at Woodbine, but it's a big week ahead as I attend the Queen's Plate BBQ on Monday afternoon, the Queen's Plate draw with olympian Alexandre Bilodeau on Thursday and then the Plate itself on Sunday. I'll have previews of the contenders posted all week long and hopefully another helpful handicapping post. Stay tuned!
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Across the pond, Cape Blanco captured the Irish Derby as trainer Aidan O'Brien swept the triactor with Midas Touch in second and Jan Vermeer third. Cape Blanco is a 3-year-old colt by Galileo out of Laurel Delight, by Presidium.
Cape Blanco wins the Irish Derby
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As always, you can keep track of all the latest racing news on TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page.