Former Canadian rider Chantal Sutherland, now based in Southern California, returns to Woodbine July 29 to ride Awesome Fire in the $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes, final leg of the triple tiara series for 3-year-old fillies foaled in Canada.
Nine fillies, including stakes winners Dene Court, Blue Heart, and Rose and Shine, along with Woodbine Oaks third-place finisher Awesome Fire, will contest the 1 1/4-mile event over the E.P Taylor Turf Course.
Awesome Fire is trained by Nick Gonzalez for owner Hugh Sutherland, Chantal's brother. The chestnut filly, a daughter of Strong Contender racing for Hugh Sutherland's Urban Fire Corp., loomed large at the top of the lane in the Woodbine Oaks but could not chase down eventual winner Irish Mission. She was defeated by three-quarters of a length.
She enters the Wonder Where off a fourth-place effort in the July 1 Bison City, the middle jewel of the filly series.
Sutherland, who got the Del Mar meet started on the right foot, winning with trainer Kristin Mulhall’s Miss California, is thrilled to be home.
"I'm very excited to ride my brother's horse and to ride for Nick and Martha Gonzalez," said Sutherland. "My brother is so stoked I am coming to Canada and I, too, am excited to come home and ride that beautiful turf course."
The Winnipeg-born jockey has enjoyed a solid 2012 campaign thus far. The major highlights have come while guiding Game On Dude to a trio of graded scores in California for trainer Bob Baffert: the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), Californian (gr. II) and Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I).
Sutherland has been doing some modeling and acting, and is a big part of Del Mar's summer advertising campaign this season. Her visit to Toronto will be cut short due to her Hollywood schedule, which includes an upcoming small screen appearance.
"I love Woodbine and can't wait to see everyone, even though the trip will be brief as I have to get back to L.A. to be on the Conan O'Brien Show, which will be filming July 31," she said.
Sutherland will have her work cut out for her in the Wonder Where. Awesome Fire, who boasts a five-panel work in 1:00 over the Woodbine Polytrack prepping for this event, will be making her turf debut.
Providing strong opposition is Dene Court, a perfect 2-for-2 over the Woodbine lawn with scores in the 6 1/2-furlong Alywow and one-mile Ontario Damsel. The Eugene Melnyk charge, trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Patrick Husbands, has been ultra-consistent in her five-race career boasting three wins and a pair of seconds.
Melnyk's homebred Black Bird Rock, second in the Bison City as the 7-5 pick, was also entered by Casse. Black Bird Rock, fourth in the Woodbine Oaks, is a daughter of Flower Alley.
Blue Heart, who was second to Dene Court in the Alywow, came back to win the 1 1/16-mile Bison City Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths. The Brian Lynch trainee, a gray filly by Exchange Rate, was closing quickly in the Alywow in just her first turf start. She captured the Mazarine Stakes over Polytrack as a juvenile.
Part the Seas, a Sam-Son Farm homebred by Stormy Atlantic out of the Smart Strike mare Go Marching Thru, should appreciate the added distance of the Wonder Where and will look to close into the pace expected to be set by Dene Court and Black Bird Rock.
The field includes four turf winners, the aforementioned Dene Court and Part the Seas, along with longshots Lateegra and Sibonet. The impeccably-bred Lateegra, a daughter of North Light -Nakaba trained by Mike Doyle and ridden by Slade Callaghan, broke her maiden last time out in a 10-furlong turf tilt.
$250,000 Wonder Where Stakes (Race 8, 4:43 p.m.), 3YO Filles Foaled in Canada, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Dene Court (ON), P Husbands, M E Casse
2. Lateegra (ON), S Callaghan, M J Doyle
3. Blue Heart (ON), A O Solis, B A Lynch
4. Rose and Shine (ON), T Pizarro, R J Biamonte
5. Sibonet (ON), M Rainford, S H Fairlie
6. Point of Emminence (ON), J McAleney, R Baker
7. Part the Seas (ON), L Contreras, M Pierce
8. Black Bird Rock (ON), E R Da Silva, M E Casse
9. Awesome Fire (ON), C Sutherland, N Gonzalez
All carry 121 pounds.