It's a wide-open 10-horse field that will battle it out at Woodbine Saturday in the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, the third jewel of Canada's Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.
Queen's Plate winner T J's Lucky Moon and Prince of Wales champion Le Cinquieme Essai will not be running in the 1 ½-mile race, run over the track's world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
A formidable group, though, will go postward for the 112th edition of the Canadian classic.
The most interesting horse of all is the 8-5 morning line favorite Portcullis, trained by two-time Breeders' Stakes winning conditioner, Mark Frostad. The bay son of Smart Strike, owned by Sam-Son Farm, has been a legend on the lawn in 2002, including back-to-back wins in his latest starts, the Charley Barley and Toronto Cup Stakes. Frostad saddled Breeders' champions Charlie's Dewan in 1995 and Chief Bearheart in 1996.
Regular rider Slade Callaghan gets the call aboard Portcullis, who drew post eight for the race. His entrymate, Mountain Beacon (Todd Kabel, up), will break from post two.
"Portcullis has done everything right," said Frostad. "He already has five wins and we're expecting him to run well. As for Mountain Beacon, there is no question that he is a much better horse on the grass than he is on the main track. Both horses have been working very well and have been pointed for this race."
El Soprano is the 4-1 second choice for seven-time winning Breeders' Stakes trainer, Roger Attfield and Stronach Stable, Inc. The grey has two career turf wins including the Summer Stakes (gr. II) last year. Robert Landry gets the call looking for his second win in the Breeders' (Pinafore Park, 1998).
Prime Acres Inc. colour-bearer Anglian Prince, the 9-2 third choice, will be the most recognizable runner in the 2002 Breeders' field. The three-time winning son of Tejano Run is one of four horses (Bravely, Mountain Beacon, Questing Knight are the others) to compete in either of the previous Triple Crown events, the Plate and the Prince of Wales. The Mort Hardy trained Ontario-bred finished a narrow second and third, respectively, in the Plate and Prince Of Wales.
"I think he'll take to the grass without any problem at all," said Hardy. "He's such a nice horse who'll do anything you ask of him."
Anglian Prince, under Richard Dos Ramos (subbing for injured regular rider Jim McAleney), will leave from post five in the Breeders'.
Bravely, trained by Catherine Day Phillips, drew post three for the Breeders'. The bay son of Tejabo was a strong second in the Prince Of Wales and could be a strong upset possibility when he takes to the turf for the first time. He goes into the race with one win and six in-the-money finishes in nine starts.
"He seems to have matured quite a bit off of the Prince Of Wales," said Day Phillips of her 6-1 fourth choice. "He's even more focused in his training. His attitude has really changed in the last while. Sometimes he just acts like a kid. But that seems to be diminishing."
Jake Barton, with four stakes wins at Woodbine in 2002, will be looking for his first Breeders' victory.
Completing the field are Questing Knight (post 1, 8-1 in the morning line), Discoman (4, 12-1), Rum Splasher (6, 10-1), Aspen Ridge (7, 20-1) and Taipan (9, 15-1).