On a 43-degree day at Woodbine, jockey Patrick Husbands sat chilly on Marchfield until the last possible moment, rallying for a half-length victory in the $139,125 Autumn Stakes (Can-II) (VIDEO) on the Toronto oval's Polytrack Nov. 9.
Eugene Melnyk's 4-year-old Ontario homebred son of A.P. Indy scored his first stakes triumph since taking the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes on the Woodbine lawn over 3-year-olds in August 2007.
Marchfield was blocked along the rail during the stretch run as Stunning Stag went for an early run under Jono Jones to open a slight lead mid-stretch. Waiting patiently for room, Husbands angled to the outside of Stunning Stag and the front-running favorite Ice Bear approaching the sixteenth pole and prevailed in a full drive.
"I was stalking (Stunning Stag) the whole way," Husbands said. "At the quarter pole, Jono went four (paths) wide. I didn't want to go six wide, so I took the shortcut. I got stopped at the eighth pole, inside of (Ice Bear). I checked him off heels and then I got him back to the outside. He was much the best."
Stunning Stag held on to the place spot by a neck over Ice Bear, the 3-1 favorite in a field of nine ridden by Chantal Sutherland. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile test was 1:43.28.
Ice Bear took the lead from Rosberg after a dawdling opening quarter-mile of :25.06, picking up the pace. The half-mile split went in :48.77 and six furlongs in 1:11.84. Marchfield, eighth at that point, closed between rivals on the final turn and continued to make up ground through the home stretch while racing on the inside before running out of room and switching out for the winning surge.
Mark Casse trains Marchfield, a leading 3-year-old in Canada last year who has won five of 16 lifetime starts while earning $642,306. The Autumn victory was worth $83,348. Marchfield was coming off a second-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Durham Cup (Can-III) over the Woodbine Polytrack Oct. 11.
Husbands said Casse told him before the race that Marchfield was a 'different' horse than the one that had finished second in the Durham Cup on Oct. 11.
"He's been really sharp. I had a tough time getting the saddle on him. He wanted to kick me," said Casse. "He's a really talented horse when he puts his mind to it."
Casse said Marchfield, who was also second in this year's Singspiel Stakes (Can-III), would be going to Santa Anita for the winter.
Second choice True Metropolitan, the defending Autumn winner and a two-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top older main track horse, faded to eighth while stalking the leaders four wide on the final turn.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Marchfield paid $11.40, $5.50, and $3.80. Stunning Stag returned $10.20 and $7.40, while completing a $2 exacta worth $134.70. Ice Bear was $4.10 to show. Artie Hot, Palladio, Torquay, Rosberg, and True Metropolitan followed. Media Play faded going into the far turn and did not finish.
Earlier on the Woodbine card, Stronach Stables homebred Ginger Brew drew off to a 4 1/4-length win in the $150,000 Jammed Lovely Stakes for 3-year-old fillies bred in Ontario.
Husbands was also aboard Ginger Brew, whose victory in the seven-furlong race makes her eligible for the 2008 Sovereign Awards for trainer Brian Lynch. She is a three-time stakes winner this year.
Ginger Brew, who took command early, won in 1:21.75 with Authenicat second and Nicki Knew third.
The chestnut daughter of Milwaukee Brew is now a five-time winner from eight starts with close to $800,000 in earnings.
Ginger Brew returned $2.90, $2.10, and $2.10, combining with Authenicat ($3.10, $2.20) for a $6.20 exacta. Nicki Knew paid $3.10 to show.
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