Grade I winner Spring in the Air returned her winning ways with an off-the-pace charge in the $162,891 Hendrie Stakes (Can-III) May 24 at Woodbine, handing trainer Mark Casse his third consecutive win in the Polytrack event (VIDEO).
The slight 5-2 favorite in a field of eight older fillies and mares, 4-year-old Spring in the Air launched her winning bid from upper stretch under Patrick Husbands. In a determined drive, she surged by tiring contender Purely Hot past the sixteenth pole and held late-running Mekong Delta safe for a one-length victory.
John Oxley's Spring in the Air, Canada's Sovereign Award winner as the champion 2-year-old filly of 2012, was timed in 1:16.79 for the 6 1/2-furlong distance. The winning bay filly was bred in Ontario by WinStar Farm and is by Spring At Last out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Run.
Spring in the Air snapped a five-race losing streak since capturing Woodbine's Fury Stakes more than a year ago. She had started once previously in 2014, finishing second by 3 1/2 lengths to Purely Hot in the Whimsical Stakes (Can-III) April 26.
Casse won the Hendrie with Roxy Gap in 2012 and Delightful Mary last year.
Kitty Wine, along the rail, set a pressured pace with Unhedged between horses and Purely Hot on the outside while unfurling swift fractions of :22.74 and :45.32. Spring in the Air had just one beaten up the backstretch while lagging about nine lengths off the pace. But she began to close the gap rounding the wide turn and had the leaders in her sights as Husbands asked her for more at the top of the lane. She charged home impressively five wide to take control in deep stretch and maintained the advantage under steady coaxing.
Avoiding traffic trouble in the stretch run was paramount for Husbands.
"When I reached the five-eighths pole, I saw four horses going head and head so the most important thing I was interested in was not to get caught behind them when they start to stop," he said. "I took her out at the five-eighths pole and watched them and she just ran them down."
Mekong Delta, ridden on the far outside by Gerry Olguin after falling out to the back of the pack early in the race, closed nicely for second at 25-1 odds. Mekong Delta finished half a length in front of 50-1 Aunt Els, who also ran on well along the inside for David Moran. Part the Seas was fourth, followed by Unhedged, My Option, Purely Hot, and Kitty Wine.
Spring in the Air was a $130,000 purchase at the 2012 Ocala Breeders' Sale Co.'s select sale of 2-year-olds in training by Casse when consigned by Eddie Woods. She originally brought $50,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall 2011 Yearling Sale from Happy Days Stable from the consignment of Denali Stud, agent.
Winner of the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland in October 2012, Spring in the Air went on to run fifth in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Her Fury victory last May was her only win since then. She improved her career mark to 4-6-1 in 14 starts with earnings of $883,576.
Carrying 119 pounds, she paid $7.10, $3.70, and $2.90, topping a $2 exacta worth $113.80 and a $2 trifecta of $1,452.60. Mekong Delta returned $14.80 and $8.10, while Aunt El was $11.90 to show.
Spring in the Air put on a show with her own take on 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta's famous dance-stepping routine while on post parade and again heading back to the barn after the race.
"It's her little personality quirk. She thinks she's pretty special and she is," said assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan."She's shown she's very versatile and I just think she's a racehorse. She'll go in there and try every time, no matter where you put her."