With a surge in the final strides, Sterwins defeated favored Rahy's Attorney by a head while breaking the Woodbine turf track record for 1 1/16 miles in the $154,688 Connaught Cup (Can-IIIT) May 24.
The Melnyk Racing Stables Ontario homebred was clocked in 1:38.99 over firm going, breaking the 14-year-old course mark of 1:39 1/5 set by Jet Freighter on June 4, 1995.
Patrick Husbands guided the 6-year-old gray/roan gelding to victory for trainer Malcolm Pierce. The red-hot tandem is perfect in four added-money events at Woodbine this year. Husbands and Pierce have an overall record of nine wins in 11 starts (81%).
Rahy's Attorney, winner of the Woodbine Mile (Can-I) last year, was two lengths in front with a furlong to run, but Sterwins, rallying six wide into the stretch, and Society's Chairman were charging. Sterwins kept on to get up just in time under a full drive from Husbands. Rahy's Attorney, making his first start in six months, finished second under Slade Callaghan, with Society's Chairman and Jono Jones third, 1 1/2 lengths behind.
Rahy's Attorney, the 2-1 favorite in the seven-horse field, set a solid pace -- :24.34, :46.94 and 1:10.28 -- and was all-out in the stretch but came up just short.
Sterwins, second in the 2006 Queen's Plate, enjoyed a perfect trip from behind, Husbands said. The jockey gave credit to rival Rahy's Attorney, who carried five pounds more than Sterwins, for his deep-stretch tenacity.
"I set (Sterwins) down and he gave me everything," he said. "I had Slade beat the last four strides and (Rahy's Attorney) dug back in. (I said), 'Wow, he's really called a racehorse.
"It's unbelievable getting this horse back," he said of Sterwins. "He got hurt. He ran a big race today."
The Connaught Cup was the first stakes score for Sterwins since the Ben Ali (gr. III) at Keeneland in April 2008. Pierce entered Sterwins in the same event one month ago, but was disappointed with the result.
"He trained well into the race. I expected a lot bigger race from him. He ran fifth and not a super effort. We had a lot of time between races coming into that spot. I was hoping that race would move him forward for today," explained Pierce.
Sterwins is now 7-for-21 with earnings of $691,583. The Connaught was his second stakes score at Woodbine and was worth $92,384. Sterwins is out of the Wild Again mare Sweet Vale.
Pierce is enjoying a strong 2009 meet with nine wins from 27 starts. The 52-year-old conditioner is 4-for-10 in Woodbine stakes.
"Things have been going well. I hope nothing changes," said the Newmarket native.
Sent off as the third choice, Sterwins returned $8.80, $4.40 and $2.70, combining with Rahy's Attorney ($4.10, $3) for a $30 exacta. Society's Chairman ($2.70), the second favorite, completed a trifecta worth $89.70.
Ice Bear, French Beret, Mike Fox and Artic Cry completed the order.