The Canadian season's first turf stakes race is slated for Sunday at Woodbine, where nine rivals will compete in the $150,000 Connaught Cup Stakes (Can-III).
If the 1 1/16-mile event is anywhere near as thrilling as last year's renewal, in which the top four horses hit the wire within a quarter of a length, then viewers will be in for a treat. Sam-Son homebred French Beret is the 3-1 morning line choice for trainer Mark Frostad.
Among the more interesting entrants is 6-year-old Idle Rumor, who is no stranger to winning races by the slimmest of margins.
The son of Belong to Me kept the Fair Grounds photo finish team in business, reeling off three consecutive victories over the Louisiana turf course. His margins of victory in each: a head, a neck and a nose.
"He wins by as much as he has to," said trainer Malcolm Pierce. "Every time he goes out there he tries his guts out."
Pierce said the Pin Oak homebred, after his share of absences over the past few years, has experienced a resurgence in 2007.
"He has a new lease on life. I think he'll run well on Sunday," said Pierce. The gelding sports an impressive 5-for-7 strike rate on the turf.
Slated to be ridden by Patrick Husbands, the Connaught will be Idle Rumor's second career attempt over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
Last June, off a 14-month layoff, the Kentucky-bred finished second in a rapid $62,500 optional claimer that was within one-fifth of a second of the course record. He was 1 1/2 lengths behind Raw Power, who is also entered in the Connaught Cup.
Unfortunately for his connections, the strong performance was followed by another trip to the sidelines. He reappeared on Jan. 12 at the Fair Grounds and hasn't been defeated since.
Pierce said he was impressed with the gelding's most recent performance against third-level allowance rivals on March 12.
"Whatever could go wrong went wrong, and he still got up and won," said Pierce. "He was checking down the backside and being taken back. It was probably the worst trip you could have."
Idle Rumor made up 2 1/2 lengths in the final furlong to win the 7 1/2-furlong event by a nose.
Idle Rumor drew post nine in the Connaught Cup, which is slated for race eight on Sunday's 10-race program.
$150,000 Connaught Cup (Can-III, Race 8, 4:27 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Pellegrino (BRZ), Jono C. Jones, 119, 6/1
2. Shoal Water (ON), Todd Kabel, 117, 8/1
3. As Expected (FL), Richard A. Dos Ramos, 117, 12/1
4. Millfleet (ON), Steven R. Bahen, 117, 15/1
5. Are You Serious (ON), Corey Fraser, 117, 12/1
6. Raw Power (ON), Emile Ramsammy, 117, 4/1
7. French Beret (ON), Todd Kabel, 119, 3/1
8. Eccentric (GB), David Clark, 119, 8/1
9. Idle Rumor (KY), Patrick Husbands. 117, 8/1