British invader Wigmore Hall, guided patiently by jockey Jamie Spencer through an opening along the inside, outfought Simmard and Al Khali in deep stretch to win the $500,000 Northern Dancer Turf Presented by Vtech (Can-IT) on the Woodbine turf Sept. 18 (VIDEO).
Trained by Michael Bell for owner Mark B. Hawtin, 7-5 favorite Wigmore Hall registered his first win in three tries on North American soil. The Irish-bred 4-year-old son of two-time Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner High Chaparral ran a troubled fourth in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) as a prep for the Northern Dancer at Arlington Park Aug. 13.
Last year, Redwood, another son of High Chaparral, won the Northern Dancer.
Wigmore Hall completed the 1 1/2-mile test in 2:30.67 on firm ground to win by a neck. Simmard, who went for an early run to get the lead for Patrick Husbands, ran second by a half-length, with the Al Khali, closing stoutly from the outside, finishing third.
The Northern Dancer was the first grade I victory in the 18-race career of Wigmore Hall. He won the Jebel Hatta (UAE-II) at Meydan Race Course in Dubai this spring prior to posting a strong third-place effort in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) on the World Cup program March 26. Wigmore Hall was making his first start at the 12-furlong distance in the Northern Dancer.
“He’s very brave,” praised Spencer. “It was a slow pace and an extremely messy race. I was a bit worried, but he beat a group I winner (Poet’s Voice) over a mile in his first start of the year, so he’s got a good turn of foot.”
As for the inside journey down the lane, Spencer quipped, “I had no choice.”
Spencer gave Wigmore Hall a ground-saving trip all the way around as Bourbon Bay uncharacteristically went to the front to lead Seaside Retreat and Hotep through soft quarter-mile fractions of :25.61, :52.80, and 1:18.91. Simmard, racing near the rear of the pack, moved up quickly on the outside for Husbands rounding the final bend to get the lead. He showed the way into the stretch as Bourbon Bay and Seaside Retreat struggled to keep up.
Wigmore Hall remained stuck to the rail before slipping through along the inside to get the lead just past mid-stretch. Simmard fought back between horses in the final furlong as Al Khali, who was last to the quarter pole, charged steadily on the far outside under Alan Garcia. But neither challenger could overtake Wigmore Hall, who finished under a drive with Spencer while toting co-top weight of 123 pounds.
Bred by K. and Mrs. Cullen, the impressive-looking bay Wigmore Hall is out of the Theatrical mare Love and Laughter. Wigmore Hall improved his career mark to 6-4-2 in 18 starts with earnings of $1,343,761. The winner's share for the Northern Dancer was $306,690.
Wigmore Hall has also raced in Hong Kong and Singapore this year, finishing 11th in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I) at Sha Tin and seventh in the Singapore Airlines International Cup (Sing-I) prior to the Arlington Million. In his only other U.S. start, Wigmore Hall ran second to Paddy O'Prado in the 2010 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington.
The winner paid $4.90, $3.20, $2.80. Simmard, trained by Roger Attfield, returned $5.50 and $3.70, and rounded out a $29.10 exacta. Al Khali, a troubled fourth in the Canadian International (Can-IT) in his only prior appearance at Woodbine last year for trainer Bill Mott, paid $3.50 to show.
Laureate Conductor finished 1 3/4 lengths farther back in fourth, followed by Hailstone, Hotep, Seaside Retreat, and Bourbon Bay.