Signature Red winning the Highlander Stakes.

Signature Red winning the Highlander Stakes.

Michael Burns

Signature Red Gets Highlander Repeat by Nose

Winner nips favored Fiddlers Patriot for first victory since last year's race.

Signature Red  won an exciting head-bobbing finish by a nose over favored Fiddlers Patriot to successfully defend his title in the $203,575 Highlander Stakes (Can-IIT) (VIDEO) on the Woodbine turf June 26.

Stewards examined the stretch run after Heros Reward lost his path attempting to squeeze between Signature Red and pacesetting Essence Hit Man but decided to make no change in the order of finish. Heros Reward, whose jockey and trainer lodged a claim of foul against Signature Red, lost ground after evening out but regathered himself and finished third, beaten by 1 1/4 lengths.

Signature Red, ridden by Luis Contreras at odds of 6-1, won in a time of 1:09.00 for the six-furlong event on firm going.

Trainer Sid Attard was anxious to get Signature Red back on turf. The 5-year-old son of Bernstein had lost seven races in a row, the last four on Polytrack, since his win in last year's Highlander.

“This horse is much, much better on the grass," Attard said. "He’s a turf horse, really. With his class, he always runs good on the ‘Poly,’ but he doesn’t run as good on the turf.”

Norseman Racing Stable owns Signature Red, who was bred in Kentucky by Gary Tussey. The bay horse is out of the Irish Open mare Irish and Foxy.

Signature Red won last year's Highlander by a neck over Heros Reward for his only prior stakes win.

Essence Hit Man took the early lead from Signature Red and Heros Reward, who ran second in last year's Highlander. Essence Hit Man, along the inside, led well into the stretch after setting a swift pace, running the opening quarter-mile in :22.14 and the half-mile in :44.89.

Signature Red, challenging from second, edged to the front by a half-length approaching mid-stretch as Heros Reward, ridden by Sheldon Russell, attempted to squeeze between the first two horses. Heros Reward appeared to bump with Signature Red, who was on his left lead, as Essence Hit Man drifted out a bit. The hole evaporated and Heros Reward lost several strides as New York shipper Fiddlers Patriot arrived to challenge Signature Red on the outside.

Those two battled through deep stretch with Signature Red getting his nose on the line first. Fiddlers Patriot, the 5-2 choice ridden by John Velazquez, took second over Heros Reward, who finished a half-length in front of Riding the River.

Signature Red, who was coming off a third-place showing in Woodbine's Vigil Stakes (Can-III) on Polytrack May 8, improved his career log to 6-4-5 in 20 starts with earnings of $564,105. Signature Red has won three of seven starts on the Woodbine sod.

The winner carried co-top weight of 123 pounds and paid $15.60, $7.80 and $6 as the fourth choice in the field of 10. Fiddlers Patriot, who had back-to-back allowance victories coming in for trainer George Weaver, returned $4.70 and $4.90. The exacta was worth $83.60. Eight-year-old Heros Reward, winner of the 2008 Highlander, paid $6.70 to show.

Riding the River nosed Jungle Wave, also trained by Attard, for fourth. Then came Paso Doble, Essence Hit Man, Silver Timber, Nordic Truce, and Stormy Lord.