The Canadian Oaks, the premier race for Canadian-bred three year old fillies, was run on Saturday June 10th. Like its more well-known Kentucky counterpart, it is run at a distance of 1 1/8 miles on the main track and a purse of $500,000. But, being run 2 weeks before the Queen's Plate, it has been used as a stepping stone for fillies whose connections wish to take on the boys in their "Derby". Everybody remembers the filly who did exactly that in 1991, Dance Smartly, who followed her win in the Oaks with a sweep of the Canadian Triple Crown, a win in the Molson Export Million also against males, and finally the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs. That memorable season led to an Eclipse Award for champion three year old filly.
Catch the Ring in the walking ring
Mountain Angel in the post parade
In this year's running, the overwhelming favourite in the stellar 9 horse field was the Mark Frostad-trained, Sam-Son Farm owned and bred two-horse entry of Mountain Angel and Catch the Ring, sent off at odds of 1-2. Mountain Angel, under jockey Todd Kabel, was sent to the front as the field rounded the clubhouse turn to set up an honest pace for her stablemate. She did her job with fractions of 23.41, 46.96, 1:11.70, and 1:38.75 over a track labelled fast. Her lead was unchallenged most of the way around and she drew away from the field by a commanding 5 lengths with three furlongs to go.
But as she entered the lane, Catch the Ring with Robery Landry aboard made her move from 5th place going three wide. She was a length behind Mountain Angel in mid-stretch and caught her at the finish, duelling in the final furlong for a neck victory in a time of 1:53.16. The stablemates were 2 1/4 lengths clear of third place 10.45-1 shot Forest Princess.
After the race, trainer Mark Frostad said "It's just a huge thrill. Mr.
Samuel would have just loved this." Sam-Son Farm founder and owner Ernie
Samuel passed away on May 25th at the age of 69. Frostad will likely send
both fillies to the next leg of the Canadian Triple Tiara, the Bison City
Stakes at Fort Erie at 1 1/16 miles. There is a $350,000 bonus if a filly
sweeps all three, the third race being the 1 1/4 mile Wonder Where Stakes at
Woodbine over the turf course.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1A Catch the Ring Landry 3.00 3.10 2.20 1 Mountain Angel Kabel 3.10 2.20 8 Forest Princess Husbands 4.00 Winning Time: 1:53.16 $2 Exacta 1-8 21.80 $2 Trifecta 1-8-4 42.20Results Chart
Comtesse Cristol was first out of the gate and first past the finish but
soon relinquishes the lead to Mountain Angel, seen here about to pass her
on the inside.
Catch the Ring (1A) just catches pace-setter and stablemate Mountain
Angel (inside, hidden) at the finish post.
Trainer Mark Frostad and jockey Robert Landry being interviewed after the big win.
Jockey James McKnight receiving the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award from
Avelino Gomez, Jr. Avelino Gomez, known as "El Perfecto" by his fans,
died from complications after a three horse spill during the 1980 Canadian
Oaks and the award in his memory is presented each year on Oaks day. McKnight was the leading rider in both Spring and Fall meets at Churchill Downs in 1977, is third in career wins at Churchill with 883, and rode 69-1 longshot Star Choice to a second place finish in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park.
Also run on Oaks day is the Victoria Park Stakes for three year olds at 1 1/8 miles with a purse of $100,000. John Franks' gelding Kiss a Native drew off to a convincing 2 1/4 length victory over even money favorite Tempered Appeal in 1:50.97.
All photos by the author except where noted