Forte Dei Marmi, looking to improve on his third-place effort of a year ago, heads a field of seven entered in the $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (Can-IT) Presented by Vtech Sept. 15 at Woodbine.
Stella Perdomo's 7-year-old comes into the 1 1/2-mile test off back-to-back graded stakes wins over the Woodbine turf. The Selkirk gelding romped in the Singspiel (Can-IIIT) at the Northern Dancer distance by 6 1/4 lengths on a yielding course July 7. He then scored a repeat victory in the Sky Classic (gr. IIT) by 2 1/4 lengths when backed up to 10 furlongs over firm going Aug. 18.
For all his success at Woodbine over the years, Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield looks to the British-bred Forte Dei Marmi for his first win the Northern Dancer, which is set for its 61st renewal. Attfield also entered allowance winner Perfect Timber, who was second in the Singspiel and sixth last time in the Sky Classic.
In last year's Northern Dancer, Forte Dei Marmi made a strong late bid but came up short by 1 1/4 lengths to Wigmore Hall, the England-based competitor who was completing consecutive wins in the race.
Forte Dei Marmi, who has won nine of 31 lifetime starts while earning $854,847, drew post 2 for his return engagement under top weight of 123 pounds. Eurico Rosa Da Silva is back aboard. Attfield tabbed Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez for Charles Fipke's homebred Perfect Timber, breaking from post 5.
Stormy Len, winner of the American Derby (gr. IIIT) and runner-up to Admiral Kitten in the Secretariat (gr. IT) at Arlington Park Aug. 17 for trainer David Donk, is also entered, as is Irish Mission, Canada’s top 3-year-old filly last year.
The Northern Dancer is one of three graded stakes on Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) undercard sunday. It goes off as the eighth race with a probable post time of 4:32 p.m. EDT.
Robert Smitten's Hampstead Heath ran second to Forte Dei Marmi in the Sky Classic last time, and the 4-year-old son of Macho Uno will make his first effort at 12 furlongs. Trained by Brian Lynch, the gray/roan gelding also seeks his first stakes win following another runner-up effort in the Nijinsky Stakes (gr. IIT) prior to the Sky Classic. Emma-Jayne Wilson takes the call for the first time.
Stormy Len, owned by Leonard Leveen and Michale P. Shanley, is the only 3-year-old in the field. The Harlan's Holiday colt makes his Woodbine debut for Donk after setting the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat. He led by three lengths in the stretch but could not hold off Admiral Kitten, who won by 1 1/4 lengths. Garrett Gomez will be aboard the dark bay for the first time, breaking from post 6. Stormy Len was assigned 112 pounds.
Irish Mission will attempt to give trainer Mark Frostad a record seventh win in the Northern Dancer and his first since 2004, when Strut the Stage completed consecutive victories in the race while setting a stakes record of 2:25.87.
Robert S. Evans' 4-year-old filly has never shied from facing males. She weakened to fifth in last year's Northern Dancer after competing in all three legs of Canada's Triple Crown, including a victory in the Breeders' Stakes at the Northern Dancer distance. A three-time winner in 2012, the distance-loving daughter of Giant's Causeway has just one win from six starts this season and was fifth last time in the Sky Classic.
Sam Son Farm's 6-year-old homebred Hotep has just one win in 12 starts over the past two years and was fourth last time in the Sky Classic for trainer Malcolm Pierce.
Completing the field is Brereton Jones' homebred Turkish, a first-level allowance winner July 28 over nine furlongs at Woodbine. The 4-year-old is making his stakes debut for Reade Baker. Gary Stevens has the call.
$300,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (Can-IT, Race 8, 4:32 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Hampstead Heath (ON), E Wilson, 119, B A Lynch
2. Forte Dei Marmi (GB), E R Da Silva, 123, R L Attfield
3. Irish Mission (ON), G Boulanger, 116, M R Frostad
4. Hotep (ON), L Contreras, 119, M Pierce
5. Perfect Timber (ON), J R Velazquez, 119, R L Attfield
6. Stormy Len (KY), G K Gomez, 112, D G Donk
7. Turkish (KY), G L Stevens, 119, R Baker