Stunning Stag wins the Woodbine Virgil Stakes.

Stunning Stag wins the Woodbine Virgil Stakes.

Michael Burns

Stunning Stag Takes Vigil

Seven-Year-Old wins Woodbine feature in 2011 debut.

Janice Attard’s Stunning Stag, with Gerry Olguin aboard, collared pacesetter Essence Hit Man at the sixteenth pole and went on to a three-length score in the featured $174,900 Vigil Stakes (Can-III) (VIDEO) at Woodbine May 8.

Trained by Sid Attard, Stunning Stag, an Ontario-bred 7-year-old gelded son of Running Stag--Midday Fun, was making his seasonal debut in the hotly contested event, which featured the even-money favorite and defending Vigil champion Hollywood Hit and Essence Hit Man, who set a six-furlong track record in the April 17 Jacques Cartier Stakes in his 2011 opener.

Essence Hit Man, with Jono Jones in the saddle, led the field through an opening quarter in :22.12, then a blistering half in :43.84, while being stalked by Hollywood Hit, last year’s Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top male sprinter, who was also beginning his 2011 season.

Stunning Stag was a reserved third in the field of five, seven lengths in arrears. As the field turned for home after six furlongs in 1:08.67, Hollywood Hit was unable to gain on the leader. But Stunning Stag was getting into gear and charged by Essence Hit Man under a hand ride. The final time was 1:22.15.    

Signature Red , another Attard trainee, came on for third, 2 1/2 lengths farther back, while Hollywood Hit retreated to fourth, 12 lengths behind the winner.

"I just left him alone the first part,” Olguin said.“He was comfortable where he was. He’s been working great, this horse, all spring. He’s a wonderful horse. He was getting tired at the end but they were running pretty fast.”

Added Attard, “We took our time with him (getting back to the races this year). He kind of likes the cold weather. We entered him yesterday, a prep at a mile and one-sixteenth, but the race didn’t go.”

Last year, Stunning Stag captured three of eight starts, including the Autumn Stakes (Can -II) at 1 1/16 miles.

With today’s purse of $108,000, Stunning Stag has now earned more than $800,000 in 27 career starts.

Sent postward the 3-1 second choice, Stunning Stag returned $8.70, $4, and $3.20.