After his in-the-money efforts in both earlier jewels of the Canadian Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds, Ami's Holiday is set to make his turf debut in the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes Aug. 17 at Woodbine.
With Queen's Plate winner Lexie Lou and Prince of Wales Stakes victor Coltimus Prime both sitting out Sunday's 1 1/2-mile grass event, Ivan Dalos' Ami's Holiday would be the only horse to contest all three legs of the 2014 Triple Crown. Pegged as the top pick at 2-1 on the morning line, he is also the only graded stakes winner in a Breeders' Stakes field of mostly untested sophomores, including three maidens.
A dozen Ontario-bred colts and geldings have been entered in the wide open affair. The Breeders' is race 9 on the Woodbine card with a scheduled post time of 5:12 p.m. EDT.
Ami's Holiday ran second in the Queen's Plate, getting away slowly and encountering a bit of traffic trouble in the stretch while rallying to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the fabulous filly Lexie Lou. In the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, where he was making his dirt debut at 8-5, Ami's Holiday took an outside path after racing mid-pack and got up for third. He finished 4 1/4 lengths behind Coltimus Prime.
Luis Contreras is back aboard Ami's Holiday, who drew post 8. Trained by Josie Carroll, Ami's Holiday drilled a bullet :59 1/5 handily over Woodbine's turf training track Aug. 10, swiftest of 49 that morning at the distance.
Said Carroll, a two-time winner of the Queen's Plate with Edenwold in 2006 and Inglorious in 2011, "We made a last minute decision to enter him. He worked extremely well on the turf. He really seemed to take to it and we thought he deserved to give it a try."
Ami's Holiday is out of the Victory Gallop mare Victorious Ami, winner of Woodbine's Princess Elizabeth Stakes as a 2-year-old. He was also a stakes winner at 2, taking Woodbine's Grey Stakes (Can-III) on Polytrack last November. The bay colt is winless in four stakes starts this year while recording a pair of seconds and a third, and he leads the Breeders' field by a mile in lifetime earnings with $448,392.
Last-out maiden turf winners Unikat, Big Red Bugsy, and Squeeze the King could be the best of several up-and-coming challengers.
Stronach Stables' Unikat, a son of top Irish stallion Galileo, rolled to a 3 3/4-length graduation victory when heavily favored July 9 at Woodbine in his third start. Trained by Brian Lynch, Unikat showed an ability to rate in his victory in the 1 1/4-mile race for jockey David Moran after setting the pace in his first two tries at Gulfstream Park. Moran has the return mount.
Big Red Bugsy also graduated in his third start as a big favorite July 26, also at 1 1/4 miles, which he completed in 2:03.41. The son of Giant Gizmo, trained by Ian Black for a partnership, stalked the pace in second before taking over in the stretch and driving to a two-length triumph. Emma-Jayne Wilson has the return call on the chestnut gelding, who breezed five furlongs over the Woodbine turf training track in 1:00 3/5 Aug. 10.
J. M. Stritzi Stable's Squeeze the King, trained by Lynch, won July 12 by two lengths at Woodbine going 1 1/16 miles as the 2-1 choice in a field of 14. He was making his grass debut after a runner-up finish by a head in his only other start a month earlier.
Bangkok comes into the Breeders' off a 6 1/2-length maiden-breaking triumph on Polytrack July 25 for trainer W. Phillip Gracey. Gail Wood and Dr. Ruth Barbour's homebred Street Hero gelding was second to Unikat in his only previous try on firm turf.
Besides Ami's Holiday, three others have Triple Crown experience in the field. Chiefswood Stable's Niigon Express ran fifth in the July 6 Queen's Plate and makes his turf bow for trainer Paul Attard. Stoneway Farm's East Side finished sixth in the July 29 Prince of Wales and also makes his initial grass start for trainer Mark Casse.
Maiden Smart Spree was fourth in the Prince of Wales, outrunning his 62-1 odds and finishing just half a length behind Ami's Holiday. Augustin Stable's Smart Strike gelding also has three turf races under his girth for trainer Mark Frostad, including a runner-up showing in a maiden race April 12 at Gulfstream. Frostad is a four-time Breeders' Stakes winner.
The other maidens in the field, Milwaukee Flash and Interpol, drew the far outside posts. Keen Gizmo, who drew the rail for trainer Carroll, and Sine Metu complete the field.
Woodbine, Sunday, August 17, 2014, Race 9
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Keen Gizmo (ON) Omar Moreno 126 Josie Carroll - 2 2Niigon Express (ON) Patrick Husbands 126 Paul Attard - 3 3Sine Metu (ON) Gerry Olguin 126 Thomas O'Keefe - 4 4Squeeze the King (ON) Eurico Rosa Da Silva 126 Brian A. Lynch - 5 5Big Red Bugsy (ON) Emma-Jayne Wilson 126 Ian Black - 6 6East Side (ON) Justin Stein 126 Mark E. Casse - 7 7Bangkok (ON) Gary Boulanger 126 W. Phillip Gracey - 8 8Ami's Holiday (ON) Luis Contreras 126 Josie Carroll - 9 9Smart Spree (ON) Steven Ronald Bahen 126 Mark R. Frostad - 10 10Unikat (ON) David Moran 126 Brian A. Lynch - 11 11Milwaukee Flash (ON) Sheena Ryan 126 Michael J. Doyle - 12 12Interpol (ON) Jesse M. Campbell 126 Sid C. Attard -
Woodbine, Sunday, August 17, 2014, Race 9