Favored Nipissing remained unbeaten in three starts when she ran down outsider Strut the Course in the last few strides to capture the $251,525 Princess Elizabeth Stakes by half a length at Woodbine Oct. 28 (VIDEO).
Chiefswood Stable's homebred filly by recently deceased sire Niigon, the 2004 Queen's Plate winner, defeated nine opposing Canadian-foaled 2-year-old fillies in Woodbine's divisional championship at 1 1/16 miles event on Polytrack. Steve Bahen rode the long-striding bay filly for trainer Rachel Halden, who scored the biggest win of her four-year career.
Nipissing, like most of the contestants was making her initial route start in the Princess Elizabeth. Cutting the corner effectively coming into the stretch, she closed between horses to reach contention at mid-stretch and reeled in 27-1 shot Strut the Course while urged through the drive strongly by Bahen. The final time was 1:45.25.
"She is the real deal," said Bahen. "She's done everything we've ever asked of her and today proved it."
Strut the Course, with substitute rider James McAleney, finished a clear second by 4 1/2 lengths over maiden Smartyfly and Eurico Da Silva. Strut the Course had to survive a claim of foul from Luis Contreras, jockey on Tiz Ro, for an incident that occurred coming off the final turn but stewards made no change in the order of finish.
Crysta's Court, the only previous stakes winner in the inexperienced field, set a determined pace of :24.63, :49.21, and 1:14.23 before giving way to the rallying Strut the Stage in upper stretch. Strut the Stage led by two lengths at the furlong mark after circling the field six wide on the final turn, but drifted out in deep stretch under left-handed urging.
Bahen was pleased with the trip he engineered for the hard-trying filly.
"We just wanted to sit off the pace and wait as long as possible," said Bahen. "I got after her a little bit earlier than I wanted to get after her, but she responded when I called on her."
Nipissing, who is out of the unraced Dixieland Band mare Kiche, was coming off a 2 1/4-length victory over open first-level allowance foes Sept. 28. She broke her maiden a month earlier in a race restricted to Canadian-breds. Both of her prior races came at seven furlongs on Woodbine's Polytrack.
She came into the race off three consecutive bullet works at Woodbine since her most recent win, including a half-mile breeze in :48 flat Oct. 24.
The win was the 23rd in the career of Halden, who has saddled 140 starters since starting in 2008. She has won with five of her 20 starters this year.
Nipissing, who was sent off as the 8-5 choice, has now banked $322,615 with the winning purse of $150,435.
Under equal weights of 119 pounds, Nipissing paid $5.50, $3.80, and $2.90. John Unger's homebred Strut the Course ran a big race despite drawing the rail. She returned $19.50 and $9.90 and rounded out an $87.80 exacta. Smartyfly, making her second start for Malcolm Pierce, was $4.70 to show.
Tiz Ro finished fourth, followed by Nahima, Chelsea Road, Anfield Park, Evangeline's Hope, Crysta's Court, and Cabo Queen.