Paladin Bay

Paladin Bay

Michael Burns

Woodbine Oaks: Paladin Bay Faces Biggest Test

Harold Ladouceur's stalking filly draws rail for 1 1/8-mile Polytrack event June 15.

Paladin Bay, coming off a win over graded stakes company in the Selene (Can-III), is among the favorites for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser, to be contested over the Woodbine Polytrack June 15.

Nine Ontario-bred 3-year-old fillies are entered for the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks, race 10 on the Sunday card with a 5:45 p.m. EDT scheduled post. The field includes undefeated Fury Stakes winner Wild Catomine for trainer Mark Casse, as well as a threesome from trainer Roger Attfield headed by grade II winner Llanarmon.

Paladin Bay, racing for the husband and wife team of owner Jessie Ladouceur and trainer Harold Ladouceur, has been a gem of consistency over her 11 lifetime starts. Since debuting a fourth at the maiden special weight level one year ago, she has not been worse than third in 10 tries including four victories and two seconds in her past six races. She leads the Oaks field in earnings by a wide margin with $537,367.

Ridden in all of her starts by Gerry Olguin, the Sligo Bay filly got up to win the 1 1/16-mile Selene by a nose over odds-on My Conquestadory with a big move up the rail May 18. Winner of the Princess Elizabeth and Ontario Lassie last year over Canadian-breds, she began the 2014 campaign with a runner-up finish in the Star Shoot Stakes April 19.

"Jessie and I set a little plan back in February," Harold Ladouceur said. "We picked out our races. That was up to the Oaks. After the Oaks, we'll evaluate the situation and make another little plan, I guess, for the races we want to run.

"We're nominated up to the (Queen's) Plate but I'm not 100% sure if we're going to run in there or not. I'm not against it. But a lot of fillies sometimes don't run that good (after the Oaks) when they do compete in the Plate. That's always in the back of our head."

Paladin Bay, who likes to stalk, drew the rail for Sunday's race, her first at the nine-furlong distance.

"I'm not really worried about the distance," the trainer said. "I think she's going to like that distance. She just seems to get stronger and stronger and stronger. The farther you go the more she wants to grab a hold of the bit and go."

John Oxley's Wild Catomine is new on the scene this spring, winning over maidens at first asking April 19 before returning May 10 to score in an all-out effort at odds of 11-1 in the restricted seven-furlong Fury May 10 by half a length. Gary Boulanger retains the mount on the daughter of Milwaukee Brew, making her first start around two turns.

Casse, who won the Oaks in 2006-07 with Kimchi and Sealy Hill, respectively, also entered Gary Barber's Lexie Lou. The dual stakes-winning daughter of Sligo Bay was third in the Fury as the 8-5 favorite, losing by a half-length after making a wide bid. Blinkers come off Lexie Lou, who retains the services of Patrick Husbands in her second start for Casse. She was previously trained by John Ross.

Second by a head in the closely-contested Fury was Hot and Spicy, trained by James Bond for William Clifton Jr. Luis Contreras rides the $250,000 filly by Tale of the Cat , who won her only other start over straight maidens at Gulfstream Park March 15.

Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield, a three-time Oaks winner with Playlist (1986), Plenty of Sugar (1994), and Capdiva (1997), sends out a threesome headed by Harlequin Ranches' homebred Llanarmon, a daughter of Sky Mesa  out of 2005 Oaks winner Gold Strike. 

A winner in two of five starts, Llanarmon won the Natalma (Can-IIT) on turf last year when breaking her maiden. Javier Castellano, who piloted Ginger Brew to a 2008 Oaks win, will climb aboard for the first time. Llanarmon has raced twice in 2014, winning an allowance/optional claiming race May 9 and returning two weeks later to finish third in another allowance. Both races were at 1 1/16 miles.

Unspurned, a homebred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid  for owner Christine Hayden, has only raced once this year, winning a seven-furlong allowance contest May 18, but has worked extremely well since.  Last year, she was second in the Mazarine (Can-III), third to Paladin Bay in the Princess Elizabeth, and an eventful sixth to stablemate Llanarmon when forced to jump over a fallen rider in mid-stretch in the Natalma. Justin Stein retains the mount.

Attfield also sends out Storm Now, a maiden after five starts owned and bred by Robert S. Evans, owner of June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Tonalist . Evans also campaigns 2012 Oaks winner Irish Mission. Storm Now, a daughter of Tiznow -Storm Tide, by Storm Cat, will be ridden by Chantal Sutherland-Kruse. No maiden has ever won the Oaks since it began in 1956.

Completing the field are Mike Ambler's Gdansk, a winner of three in 12 outings for trainer Nick Gonzalez, and Colebrook Farms' Call Her Karma, a recent maiden winner supplemented to the Oaks by trainer Ashlee Brnjas.

$500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser (Race 10, 5:45 p.m.), 3YO Fillies Foaled in Canada, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Paladin Bay (ON), G Olguin, H Ladouceur
2. Llanarmon (ON), J Castellano, R L Attfield
3. Gdansk (ON), J M Campbell, N Gonzalez
4. Call Her Karma (ON), D Moran, A Brnjas
5. Storm Now (ON), C Sutherland Kruse, R L Attfield
6. Wild Catomine (ON), G Boulanger, M E Casse
7. Hot and Spicy (ON), L Contreras, H J Bond
8. Lexie Lou (ON), P Husbands, M E Casse
9. Unspurned (ON), J Stein, R L Attfield
All carry 121 pounds.
Blinkers Off: Lexie Lou