Grand Adventure, kept out of traffic on the outside by jockey Patrick Husbands, swept past his rivals in the homestretch to win the $151,066 Connaught Cup Stakes (Can-IIIT) (VIDEO) going away at Woodbine May 30.
Trained by Mark Frostad for owner Sam-Son Farms, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Grand Adventure was one of several in the field that benefited from Woodbine's decision to cut back the Connaught Cup, the first graded turf stakes of the Canadian season, to seven furlongs from its previous distance of 1 1/16 miles. Frostad said Grand Adventure, coming off a narrow defeat when second in the 5 1/2-furlong Shakertown Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland April 10, would not have competed in the Connaught Cup otherwise.
With only 2008 Queen's Plate winner Not Bourbon starting to his outside, Husbands tracked the pace near mid-pack in the 10-horse field aboard Grand Adventure. He turned the Grand Slam colt loose in upper stretch after angling five paths wide for the drive and Grand Adventure closed the gap on narrow leader Jungle Wave quickly to get a head in front at the the furlong mark.
After taking a daylight advantage in deep stretch, Grand Adventure won under a hand ride by a measured one length over Field Commission , surging late for jockey Eurico Da Silva to get the runner-up spot. The final time was 1:19.83, slightly off the course mark of 1:19.38 established by Soaring Free in 2004.
Jungle Wave, who vied for the early lead for Chantal Sutherland, was a neck back in third after disposing of tired pace rivals Successful Mission and Major Marvel. He led briefly as Cherokee Heaven and Not Bourbon made their bids in the lane before they flattened out to finish fourth and fifth, respectively.
Successful Mission and Major Marvel carved quarter-mile fractions of :23.34 and :45.44.
Rahy's Attorney, the 5-2 choice, was in striking distance at the rail while stalking in fourth, but he was blocked mid-stretch and floated out late to do no better than sixth. Successful Mission, Passager, Niagara Thunder, and Major Marvel trailed.
Winning for the fourth time in 10 lifetime starts, Grand Adventure had his Shakertown effort validated when the horse that beat him by a neck, Silver Timber, returned to capture the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT) April 30.
The winning purse of $85,563 boosted Grand Adventure's career total to $357,090. Bred by Gulf Coast Farms, the dark bay or brown colt is out of the Coronado's Quest mare Val Marie and sold for $75,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling auction.
After winning the Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT) in his second start at 2, Grand Adventure came out of a 10th-place finish in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita with a stifle injury. He suffered a further setback while recovering and ended up on the sidelines for 10 months before returning to action last August with an optional claiming allowance win at 6 1/2 furlongs on the Woodbine turf. He was unplaced in his next two races of the 2009 season, the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) and the Nearctic Stakes (Can-IIT).
"We sort of threw him to the wolves last year," Frostad said. "He's matured. It looked today like he'd go another furlong or two."
Grand Adventure returned with a pair of stakes efforts at Fair Grounds prior to the Shakertown, with his best finish a second in the 5 1/2-furlong Bonawpaw Dec. 19 over a yielding turf.
Grand Adventure carried 118 pounds, getting five pounds from both Field Commission and Jungle Wave, and paid $11.10, $5.70, and $4.90 as the fourth choice. Field Commission, voted Canada's top sprinter last year for trainer Daniel Vella, returned $4.70 and $3.40 and completed a $56 exacta. The Sid Attard-conditioned Jungle Wave was $6.50 to show.
Jimmy Simms and Society's Chairman were scratched.