Double Sovereign Award winner Roxy Gap is set to make her return to the races following an eight-month layoff in the $150,000 Royal North Stakes (Can-III) on the turf July 28 at Woodbine.
Melnyk Racing Stable's 5-year-old Ontario homebred won last year's Royal North, one of three graded stakes victories she accumulated en route to winning year-end honors as Canada's outstanding older female and female sprinter.
Sold for $850,000 at the Fasig-Tipton winter mixed sale in February as a racing prospect, she was subsequently returned to Melynk due to some physical issues. But trainer Mark Casse said she is over her problems with some much-needed lay-up time.
Roxy Gap has not been out since Nov. 24, when she gave way after the stalking the pace in the seven-furlong Bessarabian Stakes (Can-III) and finished eighth. The Indian Charlie mare has had seven published workouts over Woodbine's Polytrack since June 7, most recently breezing five furlongs July 20 in 1:01 1/5.
"To me, she seems better than ever," Casse said. "I already know that she can run, so I haven't asked her to do too much."
"I think she got a little tired toward the end of the year," Casse added. "She's not a real big filly, but because she won all those races, she was carrying quite a bit of weight. The 118 (for the Royal North) is going to feel like a feather to her."
Roxy Gap has done most of her racing on the Polytrack, though she has won two of five starts on grass with two seconds and a third. In last year's Royal North, a six-furlong test, she took the lead leaving the turn with a three-wide move and held favored Atlantic Hurricane safe in the final furlong for a half-length victory.
Luis Contreras was tabbed by Casse for Roxy Gap's return, replacing regular rider Patrick Husbands, who is out of action with a fractured tibia. Roxy Gap, who sports a 7-4-3 career mark from 16 starts with earnings of $866,281, will break from post 5 with 118 pounds. She will race without blinkers, which she wore in her prior two starts.
Six other older fillies and mares are entered in the Royal North, which is the eighth on Woodbine's 10-race Sunday card with a 4:24 p.m. EDT scheduled post.
Richard Santulli's Sensible Lady ships in from Maryland for trainer Alan Goldberg off a repeat victory in the Buckland Stakes at Colonial Downs June 29. The 120-pound highweight in the Royal North, the 4-year-old Street Sense filly won The Very One Stakes at Pimlico Race Course prior to the Buckland.
Sensible Lady has been in sharp form for a long time, winning seven of 12 starts over the past two years. Justin Stein draws the riding assignment from post 4.
Heavenly Pride was supplemented to the Royal North by trainer Sid Attard for Tucci Stables following a third-place finish in the Sweet Briar Too Stakes July 6. She was second in the Hendrie Stakes (Can-III) June 1, and the 5-year-old daughter of Sky Mesa is seeking her first graded stakes win. Jesse Campbell has the call.
Terra Racing Stable's Why Katherine will shorten up in distance for trainer Kevin Attard after giving way in the stretch and finishing second by a neck to Northern Passion in the seven-furlong Zadracarta Stakes on the turf June 15.
Another one to consider is Stone Farm's Cat Lore, who ships in from Arlington Park off a come-from-behind allowance/optional claiming victory on the turf at 5 1/2 furlongs July 6. Michael Stidham trains the 4-year-old Discreet Cat offspring.
Nikkis Smartypants, an allowance winner on Woodbine's Polytrack June 15, and Little River, eighth in the Hendrie after showing speed, complete the field.
$150,000 Royal North Stakes (Can-III, Race 8, 4:24 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Why Katherine (ON), J V Bridgmohan, 118, K Attard
2. Heavenly Pride (KY), J M Campbell, 118, S C Attard
3. Nikkis Smartypants (ON), E R Da Silva, 118, R P Tiller
4. Sensible Lady (KY), J Stein, 120, A E Goldberg
5. Roxy Gap (ON), L Contreras, 118, M E Casse
6. Cat Lore (KY), E Wilson, 118, M Stidham
7. Little River (KY), G Boulanger, 118, G Cox
Blinkers Off: Roxy Gap