Making his first stakes appearance against older horses, Queen's Plate victor Eye of the Leopard has no easy task, facing several multiple added-money winners in the $150,000 Autumn (Can-II) at Woodbine Nov. 14.
Twelve are entered in the 103rd renewel of the Autumn, a 1 1/16-mile event to be contested on the Toronto oval's Polytrack as the eighth race on the program. The field includes Stunning Stag, who was second to last year's Autumn winner, Marchfield, and grade III winner Ice Bear, last year's third-place Autumn finisher.
Other formidable opponents are Palladio, winner of the Segram Cup (Can-III) in August, Pool Play, who captured the Durham Cup (Can-III) Oct. 4, and Awesome Rhythm, who rattled off three consecutive stakes scores over the Woodbine main track this spring.
Newcomers to Woodbine are Keeneland invader Sr. Henry, who recorded a 6 1/4-length smasher in an allowance race at the 1 1/16-mile distance on Polytrack Oct. 21, and Hastings Park standout Teide.
Sam-Son Farms' Eye of the Leopard has dropped three races in a row since his exciting neck victory in the Queen's Plate June 21. That capped a three-race winning streak for the Mark Frostad-trained 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy.
The bay colt is coming off a disappointing sixth-place finish as the favorite in Woodbine's Ontario Derby Sept. 27, a race won by Autumn rival Crown Isle, who scored a 13-1 upset.
Tyler Pizarro will ride Eye of the Leopard for the first time, replacing Eurico Rosa da Silva. They will break from post 2 under co-high weight of 126 pounds.
The 7-year-old Palladio, shoots for his ninth career win. The son of Lycius has three wins, one second and three thirds from 11 starts at 1 1/16 miles, and his career earnings of $875,132 tops the field.
Palladio, who will once again be ridden by Richard Dos Ramos, ran third in the Durham Cup behind Pool Play and Ice Bear last month following his Seagram Cup victory.
"As a 3-year-old, he chipped his ankle," said Palladio's trainer, Roger Attfield. "We took the chip out and gave him the whole winter off. We brought him back as a 4-year-old. He had a condylar fracture in the Ben Ali. He missed all of 2006."
Attfield also entered two others. Stronach Stables' Sligovitz has finished in the money in six of his past seven starts but shows no wins during that span. The 4-year-old Sligo Bay colt also carries 126 pounds. Haras Santa Maria de Araras' 3-year-old Tutti Buona Gente, third in the Ontario Derby in his stakes debut, came back to win an optional claiming allowance race Oct. 16.
Ice Bear, trained by Mac Benson, has been sharp recently, winning two races and finishing second twice in his past four starts. The streak includes an impressive 2 1/2-length triumph in his Autumn prep against allowance rivals on Oct. 23. Stunning Stag and Palladio ran second and third.
A 5-year-old gelded son of Maria's Mon, the gray will go after his 10th lifetime win.
"His 3-year-old year was an odd one," Benson said. "He showed promise, but didn't always deliver the way you expected. But he's matured. His mother (Bristol Pistol) was that way. It took her awhile to mature and show her talent."
Pool Play, from the Mark Casse barn for owner Bill Farish Jr., won the Durham Cup in his stakes debut at 11-1 and has triumphed in back-to-back races on the Woodbine Polytrack.
Stunning Stag was off 10 months following his runner-up effort in the 2008 Autumn for trainer Sid Attard, winning the Mt. Sassafras in his second start back Oct. 12.
Teide was beaten a head as the 1-4 favorite by Trick of the North in the British Columbia Premiers (gr. IIIT) Oct. 18 at Hastings Racecourse. That followed a 9 1/4-length romp for the 5-year-old son of Mt. Livermore in the Winston Churchill Handicap at Hastings three weeks earlier. Teide has won four of seven starts this year and ran third in the Longacres Mile (gr. III).
$150,000 Autumn Stakes (Can-II, Race 8, 4:31 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Crown Isle (KY), E Ramsammy, 119, J Charalambous
2. Eye of the Leopard (ON), T Pizarro, 126, M R Frostad
3. Tutti Buona Gente (KY), S Callaghan, 117, R L Attfield
4. Sr. Henry (FL), R C Landry, 115, K G McPeek
5. Awesome Rhythm (KY), J McAleney, 119, J A Ross
6. Palladio (FL), R A Dos Ramos, 121, R L Attfield
7. Stunning Stag (ON), E Wilson, 115, S C Attard
8. Teide (KY), C Hoverson, 119, D K Condilenios
9. Pool Play (ON), P Husbands, 121, M E Casse
10. Storm Caller (KY), J Stein, 115, G Weaver
11. Ice Bear (ON), C Sutherland, 121, M Benson
12. Sligovitz (ON), C Fraser, 126, R L Attfield