Sam-Son Farm will be represented by two sons of Stormy Atlantic -- Up With the Birds and His Race to Win -- in Saturday's C$250,000 Coronation Futurity, at Woodbine.
A key race on the calendar for Canadian-bred two-year-olds, the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack event has drawn six starters, including Up With the Birds, who comes into the race off a strong maiden-breaking performance on September 29 and His Race to Win, fourth in the Cup and Saucer Stakes on the turf October 20.
After finishing third in his career bow on August 26, Up With the Birds stretched out from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles next time out. The end result was a 3 1/2-length score under regular rider Eurico Rosa da Silva, an effort that had conditioner Malcolm Pierce beaming.
"He's definitely a nice colt," Pierce praised. "Now we'll just have to see if he can take that next step forward and win this one. He's certainly improving in every aspect and he's coming into the race just how we'd want him to be."
His Race to Win, who has finished second, third and fourth from three starts, broke inward at the start of the 1 1/16-mile Cup and Saucer, which was contested over yielding ground.
"Eurico said he didn't enjoy the ground that day," Pierce explained. "I was a little disappointed because I felt we could have at least been second in that race. Still, I'm happy with the way he's developing and it's nice to be in the position to have two good-looking, talented colts in your barn."
Although Pierce, who has 55 career stakes wins, has never won the Coronation Futurity, Sam-Son has taken five editions of the race.
"It would be nice to get one," Pierce admitted. "At this point, I'd say Up With the Birds is a step ahead, but that said, it's early in both their careers. They are both continuing to learn and even though it's early to think about, we'll hope they are at their best when the Queen's Plate comes around next year. The only thing about this race is that it hasn't been to kind to the winners when it comes to Plate success."
The last horse to win the Coronation Futurity and then the Plate was Norcliffe, who achieved the feat in 1975-76. He also holds the stakes record time, since the race was contested at 1 1/8 miles, of 1:49.20.
Inaugurated in 1902 at Toronto's Old Woodbine Racetrack, the race has been won by some notable names, including Northern Dancer in 1963, who would go on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes as well as the Queen's Plate. Sunny's Halo won the 1982 edition and then took the Kentucky Derby the following year.
Also on tap Saturday at Woodbine is the Grade 2, C$150,000 Autumn, a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack event that marks the return of last year's Coronation Futurity champion, Maritimer. The Seth Benzel-trained son of Stormy Atlantic hasn't been seen in competition since finishing well back in the Group 2 U.A.E. Derby at Meydan in Dubai on March 31.
He'll face, among others, Grade 2-placed stakes winner Hotep, who was a close fourth in the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap last out; Grade 3 Seagram Cup victor Alpha Bettor, fourth in the Grade 3 Durham Cup most recently; and Grade 3 scorer City Wolf, runner-up in both the Durham and Seagram Cups this season.