Princess Haya, making her graded stakes debut, rallied along the hedge to nose the 2008 Eclipse Award-winning turf female Forever Together in the $283,376 Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT) (VIDEO) at Woodbine Sept. 20.
Rafael Bejarano guided the 4-year-old Texas homebred daughter of Street Cry to her first stakes victory with a ground-saving trip in the 1 1/8-mile grass event for fillies and mares. Sent off at odds of 15-1, she won in the final stride in a superb time of 1:45.03 on firm going.
Forever Together, the 3-10 favorite with regular rider Julien Leparoux aboard, finished second by a head over Much Obliged and Patrick Husbands, with front-running Points of Grace finishing fourth.
Trained by Michael Matz for owner/breeder Eileen Hartis, Princess Haya ran a well-beaten second in the off-the-turf Matchmaker Stakes on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park in her last start Aug. 2. The bay filly was making her initial start at Woodbine.
Assistant trainer Julie Barnes said Princess Haya handled the conditions well and appreciated the long stretch of the course.
“We weren’t quite sure, actually (how she’d do in the Canadian),” offered Barnes. “It was a pretty tough race. She was stepping up a lot. We figured if she finished third, she’d run really, really well. This is probably her distance. She just did it this time.”
Princess Haya tracked the leaders while racing on the inside as Lomaki and Points of Grace set the pace with moderate quarter-mile fractions of :24.39 and :48.44. She's the Umpire pushed them along in third. Leparoux had Forever Together racing between horses behind the first flight with Princess Haya on her inside, and was never farther than about five lengths off the pace.
At the top of the stretch, Forever Together swung four wide to the outside for her patented late kick. She advanced on the leaders, eventually drawing even with Much Obliged and Points of Grace, who was weakening past the mid-point of the long Woodbine stretch. Forever Together did not sweep past Much Obliged, however, and the pair dueled to the wire. Princess Haya, moving up along the inside, found room at the rail after Points of Grace backed out. She charged powerfully through the opening to make it three across at the wire in a terrific finish.
"I was very comfortable at the rail," Bejarano said. "The horse on the lead spit it out, and I was able to get through. If I had tried to come around (the leaders), I don't think I would have been able to win the race. I made the right choice."
Princess Haya carried 113 pounds, 11 fewer than the high-weighted Forever Together.
In her two seasons as one the best American turf runners, Forever Together has never needed to take her track with her, winning grade I races from New York to California for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. But she has not had much luck in the Canadian, which she lost for the second straight year. She ran third as the odds-on choice in 2008 when the turf came up yielding, which is not her favorite surface condition.
Princess Haya, who won a second-level allowance turf race at Monmouth July 5, improved her record to 4-4-2 in 13 starts. She earned $168,732 for the victory, more than doubling her career earnings to $307,363. All of her victories have been on grass.
The winner is out of the Slew City Slew mare Sally Slew.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Princess Haya paid $32.10, $6.50 and $5, topping a $2 exacta worth $62.90. Forever Together, who is expected to defend her title in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Nov. 6, returned $2.20 and $2.10. Much Obliged, seeking her first graded stakes score for trainer Malcolm Pierce, was $3.40 to show.
It was two lengths to Points of Grace, who was followed by Dance to My Tune, She's the Umpire and Lomaki.