Favored Delightful Mary, a champion in Canada as a 2 year old, returned from a 15-month absence to win the $144,630 Hendrie Stakes (Can-III) with an eye-catching late charge June 1 at Woodbine (VIDEO).
Luis Contreras guided John Oxley's 5-year-old Limehouse mare to her first graded stakes victory for trainer Mark Casse by one length. Delightful Mary had not raced since finishing fifth in the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) over a muddy inner track at Aqueduct Racetrack March 3, 2012.
Final time for the 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack was a solid 1:15.54. Heavenly Pride, who swept past pacesetter Man Stuff in the stretch and led to the sixteenth pole, finished second, with Starship Universe third.
Bred in Florida by Hobeau Farm, Delightful Mary was the $500,000 sales topper at the 2010 Ocala Breeders Sales Co.'s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training, where she was purchased by Casse for Oxley. Out of the French Deputy mare Deputy's Delight, Delightful Mary ran third in the 2010 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
"She was in Ocala all winter and training really well," said assistant trainer David Adams. "Mark (Casse) had targeted this race for her all along."
Delightful Mary turned in a bullet three-furlong drill of :36 flat out of the gate May 25.
Whimsical Stakes (Can-III) winner Acting Naughty lost all chance in the Hendrie when she reared coming out of the inside gate at the start and spotted the rest of the field 19 lengths at the first call.
A hot pace ensued from the beginning to the benefit of Delightful Mary, who raced seventh in the field of eight older fillies and mares. Man Stuff vied with Little River for the early lead and Man Stuff took the advantage along the inside while putting up sizzling fractions of :21.88 and :44.44.
Little River would give way leaving the turn as Man Stuff, under threat from Heavenly Pride and Starship Universe on the outside, took the field into the stretch. Delightful Mary, who had advanced to mid-pack at the quarter pole, angled to the outside for the drive and came with a rush under urging from Contreras. Third at the furlong mark, she got the lead past the sixteenth pole and had the measure of Heavenly Pride heading under the wire.
"I was behind the pace and I was waiting until the quarter pole to make my move on the outside," said Contreras. "She gave me everything at the end."
Heavenly Pride, ridden by Emma-Jayne Wilson, finished 4 1/4 lengths in front of Starship Universe and Jesse Campbell. Then came Katie Get Excited, Acting Naughty, Man Stuff, Actionontwo, and Little River.
Delightful Mary's sixth win in 11 lifetime starts boosted her earnings to $588,055.
Sent off as the 11-10 choice, Delightful Mary carried 115 pounds and paid $4.30, $3.70, and $3. Tucci Stables' Heavenly Pride, a former claiming horse stepping into stakes company for trainer Sid Attard, returned $11.30 and $6.50. The exacta was worth $49.60. Whimsical runner-up Starship Universe, also owned by Tucci Stables, paid $6.40 to show.