Five-year-old Marchfield rallied down the stretch to win the Sky Classic at Woodbine.

Five-year-old Marchfield rallied down the stretch to win the Sky Classic at Woodbine.

Michael Burns

Marchfield Wins Sky Classic Stretch Duel

Eugene Melnyk's homebred outfights Champs Elysees in game turf tussle at Woodbine.

Hard-charging Marchfield outfought a game Champs Elysees in a gritty stretch duel to register a half-length win in the $256,100 Sky Classic Stakes (Can-IIT) (VIDEO) on the Woodbine lawn Aug. 23.

Coming off a second-place finish to Rahy's Attorney in the 1 1/4-mile Nijinsky Stakes (gr. IIT) a month ago, the extra furlong of the Sky Classic certainly benefited the distance specialist Marchfield, who went over the million-dollar mark in career earnings with the victory. The 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy, rallying on the far outside with Champs Elysees, swept past the pacesetters Marlang and Rahy's Attorney mid-stretch and prevailed at the wire. The winning time was 2:16.56 over 'good' going.

Defending Canadian turf champion Rahy's Attorney, looking for his third consecutive grade II win on the Woodbine turf, faded to sixth as the 8-5 favorite in the eight-horse field.

Owned by his breeder, Eugene Melnyk, and trained by Mark Casse, Marchfield has raced mostly on Polytrack at Woodbine in the past two years. The bay horse scored his second graded stakes win of the summer after also capturing the Dominion Day Handicap (Can-III) on July 1. He won for the third time in six starts on grass.

With regular pilot Patrick Husbands aboard, Marchfield trailed the field early and was about eight lengths behind Marlang, who set a reserved pace (:24.89, :49.28, 1:13.45) with Rahy's Attorney and Slade Callaghan stalking about 1 1/2 lengths off the leader.

Rahy's Attorney closed up the gap on the final turn but could not get past Marlang, who inched away to a short lead in upper stretch and continued to show the way until passed by the two big closers, Champs Elysees and Marchfield, with slightly more than a furlong to run. Those two battled in close quarters to the wire while both drifted inward a bit.

"He showed me that he just wants to run down the lane," said Husbands, who guided Marchfield four wide around the final turn. "I tried to get him as close as possible. He wanted no part of it. When I swung for home, he just took off."

Melnyk was at Woodbine to celebrate in the winner's circle with Casse and Husbands.

"It's a great delight to see this horse show his pedigree. He's an A.P. Indy horse, out of a wonderful mare that I raised," said Melnyk. "Coming to Woodbine is an emotional thing because I won the Queen's Plate here. Winning a race of that stature is a huge thrill. I'm looking forward to racing Marchfield back here again."

Marchfield is out of Pico Teneriffe, by Red Ransom.

Casse said the plan is to run the Ontario-bred next in the $750,000 Northern Dancer (Can-IT) on Sept. 20.

Champs Elysees, ridden by Todd Kabel, won Woodbine's Northern Dancer a year ago and is a two-time grade I winner for trainer Bobby Frankel. He finished 2 3/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Medjool, with Corey Fraser aboard. Marlang held on for fourth, followed by Cool Gator, Rahy's Attorney, Catch the Luck and Woodbourne.

Marchfield now has seven wins to go with eight runner-up finishes in his 22-race career. He earned $256,100 for the victory, boosting his career total to $1,016,386. In addition to the Dominion Day, he won the Autumn Stakes (Can-II) last year on Polytrack and captured the 2007 Breeders' Stakes on grass, all at Woodbine.

Sent off as the second choice, Marchfield carried 121 pounds and paid $6.50, $3 and $3.30 while keying a $2 exacta worth $21.30. Champs Elysees, who ran third in the Nijinsky in his prior start, returned $3.90 and $3.70. Medjool, who is also trained by Casse, was the longest shot on the board at odds of 38-1. He paid $11.10 to show.