Roxy Gap wins the Whimsical Stakes.

Roxy Gap wins the Whimsical Stakes.

Michael Burns

Roxy Gap All Heart in Whimsical Triumph

Eugene Melnyk's homebred registers first graded stakes win by a neck at Woodbine.

Wide throughout, Roxy Gap wore down a determined Honey Chile in deep stretch to earn her first graded stakes win by a neck in the $183,200 Whimsical (Can-III) at Woodbine April 22 (VIDEO) .

Ridden by Patrick Husbands, second choice Roxy Gap ran six furlongs on Polytrack in 1:09.15, less than one second off the track record. Atlantic Hurricane, Canada's 2011 Sovereign Award winner as outstanding female sprinter, finished third as the 8-5 favorite in her first start of the year. A field of 10 older fillies and mares competed.

Eugene Melnyk's winning 4-year-old Ontario homebred daughter of Indian Charlie is trained by Mark Casse. Roxy Gap, who spent the winter in Florida, had a five-furlong tuneup on grass at Gulfstream Park March 14, finishing third in an optional claimer.

Melnyk, whose Ottawa Senators are currently embroiled in a spirited playoff series against the New York Rangers, was thrilled with his charge's performance.

"Roxy is a very special horse for us," said Melnyk. "Watching her throughout the winter playing in the fields, we knew that if we gave her some time, and some rest, she was going to come back an absolute monster. This is just the beginning of what we hope will be a long campaign for her."

Breaking from the far outside post in the Whimsical, Roxy Gap took the lead out of the gate before being taken back to third on the outside as Honey Chile went to the front ahead of Atlantic Hurricane. Honey Chile, ridden by Jesse Campbell, carved genuine fractions of :22.50 and :45.11 while leading Atlantic Hurricane and Gerry Olguin by about 1 1/2 lengths. Roxy Gap, always close while continuing to race on the far outside, drew closer leaving the turn, then rallied past Atlantic Hurricane in the stretch.

Roxy Gap trailed Honey Chile by one length with a furlong to run but dug in gamely for Husbands to forge a narrow advantage strides from the wire.

"This is a changed horse from last year," Husbands said. "She's really interested in running right now. Before, she was a little bit green."

The veteran rider was confident in Roxy Gap's ability throughout.

"I broke so sharp ... she wanted the lead, but I drew the outside and I didn't have any pressure," said Husbands. "I just bided my time and when I asked her, she gave me a 110 (percent)."

Honey Chile, making her fourth start of the year for trainer Wayne Catalano, was second by 1 1/2 lengths over Atlantic Hurricane, who had not been out since winning the Bessarabian (Can-III) by five lengths Nov. 20. Atlantic Hurricane carried high weight of 124 pounds.

Out of the Saint Ballado mare Harts Gap, Roxy Gap won for the first time since taking Woodbine's restricted Fury Stakes last April. She ran fourth in the Woodbine Oaks June 5 before wrapping up her 2011 campaign with a runner-up finish in the Ontario Damsel Stakes July 9.

Roxy Gap won for the fifth time in nine lifetime starts and increased her earnings to $476,297. The Whimsical victory was worth $120,924.

The winner carried 119 pounds and paid $6.70, $3.80, $2.70. She keyed a $51.70 exacta. Honey Chile returned $7.60 and $3.70. Atlantic Hurricane paid $2.40 to show.

Kitty in a Tizzy closed belatedly for fourth, followed by Sweet Cassiopeia, Dance to the Moon, Dancing Raven, Rock the Moon, Moonlit Beauty, and Miss Inclined.