Heros Reward and Mission Approved, winners of last year’s Highlander (Can-IIIT) and Singspiel (Can-IIIT) stakes, respectively, are back to defend their titles in each event June 21 at Woodbine. The turf races are part of the $1 million Queen’s Plate undercard.
Jayne Marie Slysz and Rob Ry Farm’s Heros Reward will have to knock off nine rivals if he is to take the $200,000 Highlander in consecutive seasons. The 7-year-old gelded son of Partner's Hero won the six furlong sprint by three-quarters of a length in 2008 after missing by a half-length the year before.
Trained by Dale Capuano, Heros Reward won the April 11 Shakertown (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland in his season debut, defeating current Highlander favorite Mr. Nightlinger in the process. But last out, in the May 15 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico, Mr. Nightlinger turned the tables by beating his rival by 2 1/4 lengths. Heroes Reward was fifth in that race.
Heros Reward, bred in Maryland by Gretchen Mobberley, has produced a solid 11-7-2 record from 30 lifetime starts with earnings of $974,716. He will break from post 8 with Javier Castellano aboard.
Martin Racing Stable and Carl Moore Management’s Mr. Nightlinger was installed as the 5-2 choice based on his superb recent form. The 5-year-old son of Indian Charlie has won six of his last eight starts, including a span of five in a row in 2008. Woodbine’s top jockey Patrick Husbands draws the riding assignment for Bret Calhoun.
In the $150,000 Singspiel, William Coyro’s homebred Mission Approved will try for a repeat. The 5-year-old New York-bred son of With Approval won the 12 furlong race by 1 1/2 lengths in 2008 in wire-to-wire fashion under Ramon Dominguez. He is winless in three starts since then, but finished runner-up in the May 10 Kingston Stakes at Belmont, his season debut.
Castellano will ride Mission Approved for trainer Gary Contessa. They will face five rivals, including 7-5 morning-line favorite Spice Route, a 5-year-old English-bred son of King's Best. The chestnut gelding has fared well on Woodbine’s turf course, winning an optional claimer last summer, then finishing runner-up in the Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) and third in the Sky Classic (Can-II). The Roger Attfield trainee won the Elkhorn (gr. IIT) at Keeneland on April 24. James McAleney will ride.