Stealcase pulls away late to win the Ontario Derby.

Stealcase pulls away late to win the Ontario Derby.

Michael Burns

Favored Stealcase Locks Up Ontario Derby

John Oxley's promising colt registers first stakes win Sept. 16 at Woodbine.

Rebounding from a seventh-place showing in the Travers Stakes (gr. I), favored Stealcase registered his first stakes victory with a late-running effort in the $158,934 Ontario Derby (Can-III) Sept. 16 on the Woodbine main track (VIDEO).

Trainer Mark Casse had three entered in the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack test for 3-year-olds but he scratched the other two, Patrioticandproud and Prospective , in favor of 2-1 choice Stealcase. The winner broke through impressively after hinting at his quality repeatedly this season.

Patrick Husbands guided Stealcase to a 1 1/4-length victory for owner John C. Oxley. The 3-year-old son of Lawyer Ron out of the stakes-placed Cat Thief mare Steal the Show was bred in Kentucky by Secret Whispers Partnership. The chestnut colt, consigned by Classic Bloodstock, was purchased by Casse, as agent, for $320,000 at the 2011 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March 2-year-olds in training sale.

Stealcase, beaten nearly seven lengths in the Aug. 25 Travers, was third in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) one race prior following a runner-up finish in the June 16 Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. He also finished third in The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial (gr. III) at Churchill this spring.

The winner was timed in 1:50.56 while defeating Any Given Royal, who had taken the lead in the stretch for Luis Contreras. River Rush, ridden by James McAleney, finished third with pacesetter Gung Ho fourth.

Stealcase earned $92,583 for his third lifetime win in 11 starts. He has now banked $313,619.

Assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan was impressed with Stealcase's Woodbine debut.

"He's had some bad racing luck," said Sullivan. "He had a really bad trip in the Haskell. He sort of fell out of the gate. He ran so hard and for so long that day and he should have done better than third, and he did great to be third in that race. I'm really glad today that he finally got the win he deserves."

Gung Ho won an early tussle with Colleen's Sailor for the lead and proceeded to lead that one by about 1 1/2 lengths while posting modest quarter mile splits of :24.74, :49.96, and 1:14.04. Ultimate Destiny and River Rush were also forwardly placed while Stealcase, off a bit slowly, was unhurried while racing in sixth in the field of seven.

In the lane, Gung Ho left Colleens Sailor behind as Any Given Royal challenged on the outside. Any Given Royal got the lead approaching mid-stretch and was game in the final furlong. But the son of Any Given Saturday could not stave off a surging Stealcase, who came home on the extreme outside in the final sixteenth.

Any Given Royal finished second in his stakes debut for Brian Lynch, three-quarters of a length in front of River Rush. The latter was well positioned along the inside in the drive but was out-kicked. Gung Ho was followed home by Colleen's Sailor, Peyton, and Ultimate Destiny.

Stealcase carried 118 pounds and paid $6,20, $3.30, and $2.50 while topping a $23.60 exacta with Any Given Royal ($4.30, $2.80). River Rush, the 119-pound high weight, paid $3 to show.