Nipissing prepping for the Woodbine Oaks on June 6.

Nipissing prepping for the Woodbine Oaks on June 6.

Michael Burns

Woodbine Oaks, Plate Trial Take Spotlight

Spring in the Air, Nipissing top lineup for $500,00 filly event; 11 enter Plate prep.

A day after the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) wraps up the American Triple Crown series for 2013, the spotlight shines on 3-year-olds at Woodbine.

There are three stakes for sophomores on the Toronto-area track's program June 9, headed by the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser for Canadian-bred fillies. The others are the $150,000 Plate Trial for Canadian-breds and the $125,000 Alywow Stakes for fillies sprinting on the turf.

The Woodbine Oaks, at 1 1/8 miles on Woodbine's Polytrack, attracted a field of eight, led by Spring in the Air and Nipissing. The race is the eighth on the card with a 4:47 p.m. EDT scheduled post.

Spring in the Air, 2-1 on the morning line, drew post 6 with Joel Rosario to ride, replacing the injured Patrick Husbands. Nipissing is in gate 7 as the 9-5 early favorite, to be guided by regular pilot Steve Bahen.

John Oxley’s Spring in the Air, last year’s Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top juvenile filly, bounced back from a ninth-place finish as the lukewarm favorite in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland to narrowly capture the restricted Fury Stakes going seven furlongs at Woodbine May 4.

Oxley and trainer Mark Casse sent out last year’s favorite in the Oaks in Dixie Strike, who ran fifth, along with second choice Northern Passion, who was second to the victorious Irish Mission.

"I hope that she'll be an improved filly from that start," said Casse of Spring in the Air. "We're not sure why she didn't run better in the Ashland at Keeneland, but she's trained really well since then and if she brings her 'A' game, she's going to be very tough to beat. I'm not worried about the distance at all."

Spring in the Air, a daughter of Spring At Last purchased for $130,000 at the 2012 Ocala Breeders 2-year-olds in training sale, has three wins and three seconds from eight lifetime starts. She is the field’s leading money winner with $541,510.

Rosario, North America's leading money-winning jockey this year, will pilot Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Orb  a day before the Oaks.

Nipissing, trained by Rachel Halden, is one of two homebreds in the field for Chiefswood Stable along with Original Script, who is conditioned by Paul Attard.

The Ontario-bred daughter of Niigon stamped herself early as a top contender for the Oaks with a 4-for-4 juvenile campaign, including a gritty half-length tally in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes. She finished sixth in the Ashland in her first start of the year April 6 before returning with a runner-up finish as the favorite in the open Selene Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine May 19. She gave the winner, Coffee Clique, seven pounds in the 1 1/16-mile Selene.

"A mile and an eighth definitely suits her," said Bahen. "Even in the Selene, she galloped out with the winner. Hopefully we get a good break and get position so all she has to do is run down the lane."

Original Script, a daughter of Malibu Moon , will be handled by Jesse Campbell, who was aboard for all three of her starts last year including two wins and a stakes placing tin the Ontario Lassie. She enters off a front-running score in a 1 1/16-mile allowance contest May 18.

Sam-Son Farms, seeking a record eighth win in the Oaks, sends out a pair of homebreds, Smartyfly and Dance Again. Both are trained by Malcolm Pierce.

Smartyfly, a daughter of Smart Strike, pushed Spring in the Air to the limit in the Fury Stakes May 4 while closing for second. She was third to Nipissing in last year’s Princess Elizabeth while still a maiden. Dance Again, a daughter of 1997 Queen’s Plate winner Awesome Again , will be making her stakes debut and her initial appearance on Polytrack.

Rounding out the field are Pink Trillium, Tiz Ro, and Rutherford Rd.

Casse has entered three in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, although favoritism, at 5-2, fell to the Mark Frostad-trained Pyrite Mountain following his sharp win in the 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes May 5 for Awesome Again Racing Limited Partners. The son of Silent Name , teamed again with Luis Contreras, won last year's Kingarvie Stakes as a maiden.

A stalking type, Pyrite Mountain drew the rail in an 11-horse field for the Plate Trial, an important prep for the $1 million Queen's Plate July 7.

Casse will be represented in the Plate Trial by Jagger M and Dynamic Sky , second and third, respectively, in the Queenston Stakes at seven furlongs May 11, and recent maiden winner Kaigun, who draws the services of Rosario.

River Seven, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Gray Stakes (Can-III) last October, was an even fourth in the Queenston, his first race back. Also in the Plate Trial field is Robert S. Evans' homebred Kid Dreams, shipped in from Southern California by trainer Neil Drysdale for his stakes debut.

The Alywow, at 6 1/2 furlongs on grass, attracted nine sophomore fillies with multiple graded stakes winner Spring Venture the 123-pound highweight. Casse trains the daughter of Spring at Last for Gary Barber and her breeder, Stoneway Farm.

$150,000 Plate Trail Stakes (Race 7, 4:12 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Pyrite Mountain (ON), L Contreras, M R Frostad, 5/2
2. Jagger M (ON), S Bridgmohan, M E Casse, 8/1
3. Dynamic Sky (ON), J Rosario, M E Casse, 7/2
4. Midnight Aria (ON), J M Campbell, N Gonzalez, 12/1
5. Holy Whirl Wind (ON), E Wilson, R Baker, 20/1
6. Philego (ON), J Stein, M P De Paulo, 30/1
7. River Seven (ON), T Kabel, N Gonzalez, 4/1
8. Iratus Leo (ON), G Olguin, J P MacKenzie, 50/1
9. Kid Dreams (ON), J Castellano, N D Drysdale, 6/1
10. Kaigun (ON), J Rosario, M E Casse, 12/1
11. His Race to Win (ON), E R Da Silva, M Pierce, 15/1
All carry 126 pounds.
Blinkers Off: Dynamic Sky, Holy Whirl Wind, Iratus Leo

$500,000 Woodbine Oaks (Race 8, 5:47 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Pink Trillium (ON), L Contreras, S Smullen, 8/1
2. Dance Again (ON), S Bridgmohan, M Pierce, 12/1
3. Rutherford Rd (ON), J Stein, M J Doyle, 30/1
4. Original Script (ON), J M Campbell, P Attard, 4/1
5. Tiz Ro (ON), T Kabel, R B Martin, 15/1
6. Spring in the Air (ON), J Rosario, M E Casse, 2/1
7. Nipissing (ON), S R Bahen, R Halden, 9/5
8. Smartyfly (ON), E R Da Silva, M Pierce, 6/1
All carry 121 pounds.