The 1 3/4-mile Valedictory Stakes (Can-III) (VIDEO) came down to just a head when distance-loving Eagle Poise outfought Harrods Creek in deep stretch to capture the $150,388 event on Woodbine's closing day for the 2011 season Dec. 4.
Second to Cloudy's Knight in the 2009 Valedictory, Eagle Poise earned his first graded stakes win for Riverdee Stable and trainer Graham Motion. The Valedictory was upgraded to grade III status this year.
Ridden by Patrick Husbands, Eagle Poise ran the marathon distance in 2:57.62, breaking the Polytrack mark of 2:58.27 set by Marsh Side in the 2006 renewal of the Valedictory.
Eagle Poise now has five wins and two seconds in eight starts over Woodbine's Polytrack. The 5-year-old son of Empire Maker tuned up for the Valedictory with a neck victory over Eye of the Leopard in an allowance race at 1 5/8 miles over the track. That snapped an eight-race losing streak for the bay gelding.
“Last race, he was very gutsy down the lane,” said Husbands, who notched his 23rd Woodbine stakes win of the campaign, tying him with Luis Contreras for the colony lead. “I just waited as long as possible. Down the lane, he showed me again how gutsy he is.”
Eye of the Leopard, second to Pool Play in last year's Valedictory, was made the narrow 2-1 favorite in the field of six over last month's Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II) victor Afleet Again. Eagle Poise, the 3-1 third choice, settled in fourth early while well off the pace established by 36-1 outsider Getta Rhythm.
Getta Rhythm set the tempo over Harrods Creek for the first 10 furlongs, getting a half-mile in :49.81 and the mile in 1:41.77. Harrods Creek, ridden by Chantal Sutherland, challenged approaching the final turn after 1 1/4 miles was run in 2:07.55. Harrods Creek took control at the quarter pole and drew clear over Eye of the Leopard in the lane.
Eagle Poise, closing from third around the bend after rating off the pace, chased down the leaders in the stretch. He drew even with Harrods Creek in the final 100 yards and got the advantage in the last strides.
Harrods Creek settled for second, 2 1/2 lengths in front of Eye of the Leopard and Contreras. Afleet Again was more than 13 lengths farther back in fourth, with Alpha Bettor and Getta Rhythm lagging further in the strung-out field.
Bred in Ketnucky by Juddmonte Farms, Eagle Poise won for the sixth time in 20 starts and boosted his earnings to $421,894. The winner is out of the Nureyev mare Reams of Verse.
The winner carried 118 pounds and paid $8.80, $4.80, and $3.20. Harrods Creek, making his debut at Woodbine for trainer Bill Mott, returned $4.70 and $3.30. The exacta was worth $43.60. Eye of the Leopard, the 2009 Queen's Plate winner making just his third start this year for trainer Mark Frostad, paid $2.50 to show.