Seaside Retreat, who has finished on the board in his last five starts, earned his first graded victory and set a course record when he prevailed by a length over favored Strike a Deal in the Nijinsky Stakes (Can-IIT) at Woodbine Aug. 4.
Ridden by jockey Patrick Husbands, Seaside Retreat advanced from fourth to second at the quarter pole of the 1 1/4-mile turf race and was forced three wide at the far turn, where he vied for the lead with dual stakes winner Strike a Deal.
Seaside Retreat drew away in the stretch to win in 2:00.60, shaving 0.08 seconds off the mark set by Mrs. Lindsay in last year's E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT).
A 5-year-old gelding by King Cugat, Seaside Retreat came into the Nijinsky off an allowance victory at the Canada track July 13. Though he placed in two other stakes this year, including Woodbine’s King Edward Handicap (Can-IIT), Seaside Retreat had not won a black-type contest since the 2006 Charley Barley Stakes.
The Nijinsky victory, which came under clear skies over a turf course labeled “firm,” was Seaside Retreat’s seventh from 19 starts. Trained by Mark Casse, he is owned by W.S. Farish Jr., who co-bred him with Centennial Farms in Kentucky.
Husbands said Seaside Retreat broke awkwardly in the Nijinksy.
"I nearly fell off, the first jump," said Husbands. "He has a mind of his own. Now he's getting back to where he was when he was two and three.
Seaside Retreat was sidelined from February 2007 to April 2008 with a few different injuries. Casse said he's pleased with how he has returned.
"I think he's always been a talented horse,” he said. “Maybe, we got a little bit of Derby fever and maybe it messed us up a little bit," he added of the gelding's unplaced effort in the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). "We enjoyed the experience. His pedigree has always said grass. It just took us a little while to get there. We've had a few bumps along the road."
Casse, who is one victory from the 1,000-win plateau, saluted the patient approach of his owner.
"It's nice when you have an owner like Bill (Farish, Jr.), who never questions what you do. We gave this horse a lot of time. (He) never once asked, 'Are you going to get him back?' He's always done what's best for the horse. It has paid off."
The $180,000 winner's share of the purse elevated Seaside Retreat’s career earnings to $849,402.
Casse suggested the Sept. 7 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf (Can-IT) at 12 furlongs as a possible next start for Seaside Retreat.
"If we can keep him training every morning and behaving, that's where we'll go next," said Casse.
Seaside Retreat returned $12.60, $4.40, $3.50, combining with Strike a Deal ($2.60, $2.30) for an exactor worth $28.50.
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