The $750,000 Northern Dancer Turf (Can-IT) drew a field of 10 older horses, four of them grade I winners. The $300,000 Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT) enticed 11 fillies and mares, including 2007 Canadian Horse of the Year Sealy Hill and Diana (gr. I) winner Forever Together. Both contests are loaded with talent and are expected to be hotly-contested.
Bushwood Stables’ remarkable 9-year-old Talkin Man gelding Better Talk Now was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer. A five-time grade I winner, Better Talk Now enters the event off a runner-up performance in the Aug. 16 Sword Dancer (gr. IT) at Saratoga and will be seeking his first trip to the winner’s circle since taking the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) in June of 2007. The 2004 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I) victor, who runs for trainer Graham Motion, has a win and a third in two starts on the Woodbine grass. His win came in the 2006 Sky Classic (Can-IIT) on a yielding turf. Ramon Dominguez will ride.
World traveler Quijano makes his second appearance at Woodbine. The German-bred son of Acatenango shipped to Ontario last year for the Canadian International (Can-IT) and finished third to current entrant Cloudy’s Knight. Since then he has won once in six starts, that coming in the group I Gran Premio di Milano June 15 in Italy. Also a group I winner in Germany, 6-year-old Quijano has started in six different countries and has earned nearly $1.8 million. The 3-1 second choice will be ridden by his regular jockey Andrasch Starke.
The other grade I winners in the field are IEAH Stables’ Frost Giant, who enters off a narrow victory in the June 28 Suburban Handicap (gr. I) on the main track at Belmont, and Cloudy’s Knight, S J Stables’ hard-knocking 8-year-old gelding who has earned more than $2 million in his career but has been well back in all three starts this season.
Seaside Retreat, Strike a Deal, and French Beret, the one-two-three finishers in the Aug. 4 Nijinsky Stakes (Can-IIT), respectively, could also be factors.
The 1 1/8-mile Canadian Stakes looks to be equally as intriguing. Coming off her impressive score in the July 26 Diana, win which she rallied from seventh at the top of the lane, Augustine Stable’s Forever Together is likely to be one of the top betting choices. The 4-year-old Belong to Me filly has produced a 2-0-1 record from four starts this season and will be making her debut in Canada. Julien Leparoux will ride for Jonathan Sheppard.
Melynk Racing’s Sealy Hill fell a neck short in last year’s Canadian, which was won by Essential Edge. It was about the only thing that went wrong for the daughter of Point Given, who won four starts and swept the Canadian Filly Triple Crown on her way to the a pair of Sovereign Awards. The Mark Casse trainee won for the first time in four starts this season July 27 at Woodbine in allowance company. Patrick Husband will be in the irons.
Other contenders could be Lawrence Goichman’s three-time graded stakes winner J’ray, Nassau Stakes (Can-IIT) victor Callwood Dancer, and Steve Asmussen trainee The Niagara Queen, who enters off a 1 1/2-lemgth score in the Dance Smartly Stakes (Can-IIT) July 12 at Woodbine.
Post time for the Canadian is 2:46 p.m., while the Northern Dancer is set to begin at 4:25 p.m.