Pacesetting Regally Ready, rebounding from a disappointing effort in the Turf Monster Handicap (gr. IIIT) last month, held off the fast-closing favorite Bated Breath by a neck to win an exciting renewal of the $506,535 Nearctic Stakes (Can-IT) at Woodbine Oct. 16 (VIDEO).
The first of three grade I stakes on Woodbine's Canadian International card, the six-furlong Nearctic was contested on yielding turf. Corey Nakatani guided Vinery Stable's Regally Ready to victory for trainer Steve Asmussen. Regally Ready, sent off at odds of 9-1, posted his first grade I triumph.
As part of the Breeders's Cup "Win and You're In" challenge series, the Nearctic victory guarantees Regally Ready, a 4-year-old son of More Than Ready , a starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
"Now that he’s won here and he’s going back to Churchill, where he’s two for two,” noted Devron Leingang, an assistant to Asmussen.
Grapestock bred Regally Ready, who was reported as being sold by Eaton Sales, agent, to Vinery Stables for $110,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. Dr. Tom Simon, who owns Vinery, breeds horses in the Grapestock name. The Kentucky-bred chestnut gelding is out of Kivi, by King of Kings.
Juddmonte Farm's Bated Breath, shipping from Great Britain for his first United States start for trainer Roger Charlton, was the 2-1 choice in a field of 12. He edged Gypsy Ring by a head for second. The final time was 1:11.35.
Regally Ready won a pair of grade III races earlier this year before he finished 10th as the favorite in the five-furlong Turf Monster Sept. 5 at Philadelphia's Parx Racing. Considered one of the best turf sprinters in the country during the spring, he has now won five of eight starts in 2011.
Bated Breath was made a strong favorite off his second-place efforts in a pair of group I events in England this summer. He missed by a nose to Dream Ahead in the Betfred Sprint Cup (Eng-I) in his most recent start Sept. 3 at Haydock.
Regally Ready, breaking from post 9, took the early lead from Gyspy Ring with Fiddlers Patriot, racing at the rail, and Riding the River also prominent. Regally Ready took them along at a solid clip under the conditions, completing the opening quarter mile in :23.47 and reaching the quarter pole in :46.66
Bated Breath, racing at mid-pack, emerged as a challenger on the outside after launching his bid on the turn. But Regally Ready maintained a clear 1 1/2-length lead on Gypsy Ring at mid-stretch and dug down gamely under strong encouragement from Nakatani. He was all out in the final strides to prevail.
Bated Breath, ridden by Garrett Gomez, just nipped 18-1 Gypsy Ring, driving for the wire between horses under Justin Stein.
Regally Ready won three consecutive starts at Santa Anita during the winter and spring, including the San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a nose on the hillside turf course April 16. in his next start, Regally Ready captured the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs May 7. He was off for three months after that, returning with a close third-place finish in a minor stakes at Monmouth Park Aug. 6.
The concern after his poor performance in the Turf Monster a month later was that he had gone off form, but his connections felt that Regally Ready just didn't care for the course.
“The main thing with him is to get him relaxed,” said Nakatani. “His first comeback race (at Monmouth Park) he got a little late but Steve said ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll be on track for the Breeders’ Cup.’ I think this was a great spot for him and he did what he was supposed to do, going into the Breeders’ Cup (Turf Sprint).”
Regally Ready has now won half of his 16 lifetime starts with two seconds and four thirds, earning $670,684. The Nearctic victory was worth $297,030.
After the wire, Regally Ready ducked toward the rail before being straightened out by Nakatani.
“That kind of surprised me,” Nakatani said. “His tendency is to drift to the right. When he saw the cones, I thought he was going to go to the right. So I shifted to the right and he went left. It’s one of those things. I was just thankful he got to the wire first and he didn’t get hurt and I didn’t get hurt.”
The winner carried 119 pounds and paid $21.60, $9.10, and $5.90 as the fourth choice. Bated Breath returned $4.10 and $3.50, and rounded out a $79 exacta. Gypsy Ring was $9.50 to show and completed a trifecta worth $1,324.70.
Grand Adventure, last year's Nearctic runner-up, finished two lengths farther back in fourth. Then came Fiddlers Patriot, Hitchens, Bewitched, Right One, Riding the River, Fatal Bullet, Jenny's So Great, and Yield Bogey.
Signature Red was scratched.