'Conqueror Has Answer in Northern Dancer BC Turf

(from Woodbine report)
On a rainy day in Toronto, Sky Conqueror rallied stoutly down the stretch for jockey Todd Kabel to catch the pacesetting Last Answer and capture the inaugural edition of the $615,653 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf (Can-II) by a half-length at Woodbine on Sunday.

The Northern Dancer BC Turf was part of Woodbine's 50th anniversary celebrations, which went on in spite of most of the program being rained out. Washed out inner dirt track conditions due to very heavy and sustained rains in the Toronto area forced the cancellation of all but the first two of the day's dirt track races at Woodbine.

The 4-year-old son of Sky Classic (a grandson of Northern Dancer) defeated Last Answer and Jambalaya, two sons of Langfuhr  (also a grandson of Northern Dancer), to win his second stakes race in a row and take home the lucrative $368,970 winner's share of the purse.

Traveling 1 ½ miles in 2:34.36 over a 'soft' turf course, the William Sorokolit charge had to summon every ounce of determination to run down jockey Emile Ramsammy and Last Answer, who opening up a huge lead, as large as 10 lengths on the backstretch.

"I was really concerned. I wasn't willing to spot any horse that much ground, especially on this turf course," said Kabel, who has won the last six Woodbine stakes in which he has competed. "My horse came up big. I had to make up a lot of ground and Emile got to give his horse a nice breather on the turn. I thought he gave his horse a tremendous ride."

Sky Conqueror, who shares the white-blazed face of the race's namesake, is now a four-time winner from 11 starts. He won the King Edward Breeders' Cup (Can-II) on July 3.

Darwin Banach, who is enjoying tremendous success since taking over the reins as private trainer for the Sorokolit family, conditions the Ontario-bred. Banach, a Saskatchewan native, said he wasn't concerned about a soft turf or the new distance his chestnut had to negotiate.

"It was his first time going 1 ½ miles. There are always concerns when you try something new," said Banach. "From his training, he's showed us that he wants to run far. We expected him to get the distance."

Sky Conqueror missed most of his 3-year-old season after suffering a contagious bacterial infection called 'strangles' last winter. He returned last September and won two of his first three races.

E.P. Taylor, Northern Dancer's breeder, would have been proud of the first winner of the grade II event, not just because he was a descendant of the Queen's Plate and Kentucky Derby winner, but because he was a homebred. Sky Conqueror is the result of several years of patience and commitment on the part of his owner and breeder.

"It's very, very special. It's once in a lifetime," said Sorokolit, who is in the land development business.

The fourth choice in the field of seven, Sky Conqueror returned $11.20, $6.80, $3.90, combining with Last Answer ($11.90, $5.90) for a $124.80 exacta. Jambalaya ($3.20) rounded out a $380.80 trifecta.

Shoal Water finished fourth, followed by Porfido, Revved Up and Pellegrino.

The 8-5 favorite Revved Up, a Christophe Clement trainee, never contended, finishing 15 ¼ lengths behind. Brice Blanc, the gray's rider, said it wasn't the 8-year-old's day.

"He just didn't handle the track. He didn't fire. He had a little kick at the top of the stretch, but that's it."

(Chart, Equibase)