Woodbine presents a five-stakes program Saturday that builds toward the Saturday's $500,000 Woodbine Oaks for Canada's leading 3-year-old fillies. The undercard includes that nation's reigning Horse of the Year, Pink Lloyd, in the Grade 3 Bold Venture as he looks to continue his sprint dominance.
The field of 10 Ontario-sired runners re-matches Fury Stakes 1-2-3 finishers CURLIN'S VOYAGE, JUST LEAVEITALONE and INFINITE PATIENCE. Multiple stakes-placed MERVEILLEUX was fourth most recently in open company in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes. CURLIN'S VOYAGE and MERVEILLEUX have kept the strongest company lines, but this race seems very capable of being won by a class riser.
US dirt speed could come from PILOT EPISODE drawn inside in post 2 and LASTING UNION out wider in post 8, as well as MIZZEN BEAU drawn between them in post 6. This does not appear to be a particularly fast pace, and some of those US runners are questionable to take to the Tapeta synthetic footing.
The obvious key race to study is the 7-furlong Fury at Woodbine on July 5. CURLIN'S VOYAGE was best that day as the 6-5 favorite, but not before working much harder than expected. The Josie Carroll trainee was all out to score by a head in the prep, and did not gallop out well at all. She twice won around 2 turns as a juvenile, so you know she can do it. But she appears to be a shorter price than fair to extend all the way out another quarter-mile and another bend. Carroll hits a fantastic 36% the last 5 years at Woodbine in 1-1/8 miles races on the Tapeta, according to 1/ST BET stats.
Fury runner-up JUSTLEAVEMEALONE was a 7-race maiden and 65-1 shot at the time of her narrow defeat to CURLIN'S VOYAGE. She since has broken her maiden at this 1-1/8 miles trip, but did so narrowly at 7-5 in a dawdling 1:53 flat. But that she took CURLIN'S VOYAGE to the brink in the Fury ought to be cause for pause. Western Canada transfer INFINITE PATIENCE and MIZZEN BEAU finished a bit farther behind in the Fury. It's MIZZEN BEAU getting a second spin over the course, having some decent route form previously and a bullet local workout since the Fury that gathers some interest for trainer Norm Casse.
I'll look for the Woodbine Oaks winner to be fresh from the Fury's foursome.
MERVEILLEUX makes plenty of sense after a solid fourth in the 1-1/16 miles Selene. Trainer Kevin Attard adds blinkers on this Paynter filly who chased a wire-to-wire winner last out in a race that didn't come back. Leading jockey Rafael Hernandez will be back aboard for a tandem that's hitting 35% since June 20. MERVEILLEUX should get first run on some of the deeper closers from near the pace.
LASTING UNION really impressed in her July 22 allowance win at Delaware Park. She shot to the front, relaxed for her rider, relinquished the lead while patient, re-gained it and blew them away by 12 widening lengths with her ears up almost every step. It appeared to be a breakout performance. Trainer Michael Matz sends this impeccably bred daughter of Belmont winner Union Rags to Woodbine for the first time. She's a granddaughter of sharp stakes winner Indian Vale and great grand-daughter of major graded stakes winner Marley Vale. She's trained at Fair Hill in Maryland since June, where there's a Tapeta training track. But it is notable that sire Union Rags' offspring are just 1-for-35 on the Woodbine main track over the last 5 years.
PILOT EPISODE is still a maiden for Shug McGaughey and could be part of the pace, but hard to recommend this far. Sire Speightstown gets 20% winners on the Woodbine Tapeta over the last 5 years, a very good number.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: MERVEILLEUX is proven on the surface and has solid 2-turn form for the distance.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: AFLEET KATHERINE is 2-for-2 and yet to earn respect. She scored her debut at 29-1 and her allowance class rise in open company at 6-1 with nearly identical trips from wide posts. Those came on turf at 7 furlongs, but damsire Include should help her get more distance. She'll be the longer-priced of the Kevin Attard entries compared to MERVEILLEUX.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $40 exacta LASTING UNION over MERVEILLEUX; $30 exacta part-wheel LASTING UNION over CURLIN'S VOYAGE and AFLEET KATHERINE ($60).