Bruno Schickedanz' Wake At Noon has been assigned top weight of 126 pounds for Sunday's $159,300 Highlander Stakes (gr. III), one of the co-features on Canadian International day at Woodbine.
The multiple stakes-winning Wake at Noon, trained by Abraham Katryan, will face five rivals, giving them up to 12 pounds in the six-furlong stake that he also won in 2000. The 5-year-old son of Cure the Blues is the field's leading money winner by far, with more than $1.1 million in a sparkling career.
Wake at Noon has won five of eight starts this year, including the Briartic, Jacques Cartier and Vigil Stakes in early spring. The chestnut horse enters the Highlander off a win in the prep, when he hung on to defeat Cheap Talk, one of his rivals on Sunday, by less than a length while carrying 124 pounds. The 7-5 morning line choice picks up an additional two pounds for that performance and will be ridden by Emile Ramsammy.
In last year's Highlander, Wake At Noon was the 121 pound high weight but could manage only a fifth-place finish to Mr. Epperson.
Trainer Bob Tiller, the 2001 Sovereign Award winner as Canada's outstanding conditioner, saddles a pair of hopefuls which he also co-owns. Jockey Patrick Husbands is named on both.
One is Cheap Talk, which Tiller co-owns with partner Tom Lottridge. The 3-year-old gelded son of Abel Prospect makes his stakes debut after finishing second to Wake At Noon in the September 8 prep. A winner in three of nine starts this year after going unraced as a 2-year-old, Cheap Talk will carry 115 pounds.
Tiller's other missile is the speedy Rare Friends, which he co-owns with Frank DiGiulio Jr. The 3-year-old gelded son of Helmsman won a Sovereign Award last year as Canada's top 2-year-old colt, when he won four of five starts, including three stakes. This year, Rare Friends has but two wins in seven starts, but one of those victories was his season debut in the Achievement Stakes. Pegged at 117 pounds, he also finished second to Wake At Noon in a six furlong allowance contest July 7.
The second highweight is Ron Guidolin and Partners' Krz Ruckus, a 5-year-old gelded son of Bold Ruckus, who will lug 120 pounds. Last year, the dark bay won five of nine starts and $306,911. This year, the Mike DePaulo trainee is a two-time winner in only five outings. He'll be handled as usual by Dino Luciani and will try to improve on last year's fourth-place finish in the Highlander.
Returning as the defending champion is 7-year-old Mr. Epperson, who won last year's edition by 1 1/2 lengths as the second choice. His win highlighted a very successful 2001 season in which the bay gelding visited the winner's circle five times and earned $430,180.
The gallant campaigner, who has been assigned 115 pounds, will be reunited with the now un-retired jockey Jim McKnight in the Highlander, after being ridden by Jake Barton in his last two efforts. Mr. Epperson shows a single win in eight starts this year for trainer Scott Fairlie.
Completing the field is Mockingbird Farm's Davids Expectation, to be ridden by Jerry Bailey at 114 pounds. The 3-year-old son of Valid Expectations is looking for his first stakes win but has so far banked $226,311 for trainer Mark Casse. He's won four of 15 lifetime starts.$159,300 Highlander Stakes (gr. III), 6 Furlongs, 3 & Up
PP/Horse/Trainer/Jockey/Morning line odds
1/Cheap Talk/Robert Tiller/Patrick Husbands/2-1 (e)
2/Davids Expectation/Mark Casse/Jerry Bailey/9-2
3/Krz Ruckus/Mike DePaulo/Dino Luciani/4-1
4/Mr. Epperson/Scott Fairlie/James McKnight/8-1
5/Wake At Noon/Abraham Katryan/Emile Ramsammy/7-5
6/Rare Friends/Robert Tiller/Patrick Husbands/2-1 (e)