by Paul Mazur of ChicagoNow
On a weekend with only a sprinkling of graded stakes (even though it is the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend) as opposed to the vast variety for Kentucky Derby Week and Preakness Week, it's up to Canada for the $200,000 Grade Two (Canadian) Nassau Stakes from Woodbine Racetrack in Canada. On Saturday afternoon, the G2 Nassau functions as the first stakes of the year at Woodbine on the turf, part of Woodbine's long grass season from that stretches from now until late-October.
There are two stakes that have the nameplate of Nassau Stakes, and ironically both are for female turfers. One of them is at Glorious Goodwood in Britain, at about ten furlongs and often gives clues to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The other is previewed in this space.
Created in the late 1950s and run on dirt, the G2 Nassau Stakes has seen a few runnings at fellow Canadian track Fort Erie, while being run for its first ten years on dirt. A mile category race for most of its life, it's been as short as seven furlongs but for many years was at a mile and a sixteenth on the grass. In 2010, the race shortened up to a flat mile. Past heroines include Woodbine stakes nameplates like Wonder Where (1960) and Carotene (1987). Also among the more recent winners is Marketing Mix, who won this race in 2012.
All purse values are given in Canadian funds unless denoted and all selections are made for "turf only".
Woodbine -- Race 8 -- G2 Nassau Stakes -- One Mile (one turn) on Turf -- post time 4:45 pm ET
Woodbine's grass course is different in that encircles the main track, as opposed to most other venues where the main track (be it dirt or not) is the outer oval. As such, it's a one-turn mile. Moreover, Woodbine's grass has been known to play favorably to European runners - whether they come over in October to scoop up the G1 Pattison Canadian International and G1 Taylor or other events along the way.
STELLAR PATH (7-2) has a win at the last-out distance, but that's a two-turn turf mile where she won last at Aqueduct. So why endorse a two-turn mile winner? She's trained by Christophe Clement, a three-time victor in this race. And she's done well in her native France, as a graded stakes winner at three and a small stakes winner at four. Something went wrong with her late in the four year old campaign and now she's in North America. She'll go second off the layoff after winning a small stakes at Aqueduct. The field of four saw a slow pace last out and she still kicked on to win despite a bad break. With twelve in the field pre-scratch, the pedestrian cadence of last time isn't likely. Luis Saez, who rode her last time (he isn't missing much in New York) to ride here.
Trainer Malcolm Pierce puts two in the field, and both of them are pegged for discussion as possible contending candidates. DECEPTIVE VISION (3-1) goes back on the turf after a win last-out at 13-10 odds in the G3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland over the dirt. Third in the G1 Taylor last fall, she's hit the podium in all five of her tries over the Woodbine green (though with only one win) and has shipped south to North America to carry her success in G3s down there. She won her G2 in a quirky running of the Canadian Stakes where La Tia set the pace then dropped off while Lexie Lou (who would be the Canadian Horse of the Year) threw in a clunker. Upgrade her chances on turf that's not firm, as both of her turf wins have been on "good" going.
OVERHEARD (4-1) missed the trifecta last time in her first start of 2015 at Keeneland. But she was fourth, two lengths behind the winner, in a Keeneland upper-level allowance. Typically those allowances draw well for their level, as she was facing a stakes winner and two runners that next-out ran mid-pack in graded stakes. She's hit the podium in her seven tries over the Toronto turf, with three wins and beat DECEPTIVE VISION last summer over this course in the G2 Dance Smartly. Upgrade her chances should the turf be firm, as she won the G2 Dance Smartly and a G3 at three over firm going.
#4 STELLAR PATH
#9 DECEPTIVE VISION
Longshot: #2 SKYLANDER GIRL (8-1) fits the role of "horse for the course" to a tee (eighteen outs, three wins, eleven top-three finishes), and given Woodbine's unique and wide course that's not a bad ace to hold. SKYLANDER GIRL was good enough to take down to Gulfstream in the winter, where she was second to Parranda, the same Parranda that was esteemed enough to be tried in a multi-million dollar race (over $3M, US funds) in Singapore. SKYLANDER GIRL projects the speed of the speed in this spot, and pilot Emile Ramsammy won't be afraid to put this on the lead - this space likes the move away from Contreras to Ramsammy, the latter of which was aboard in her three-year-old races over this course. While she isn't likely to get a free pass on the front end, she is the speed of the speed and if the others play chicken, she stands to benefit the most.