Comebacking Sky Conqueror is one of seven locals who will defend the E.P. Taylor Turf Course against two American invaders in Sunday's $150,000 Connaught Cup (Can-III), the first turf stakes race of the season at Woodbine. The lightly raced 4-year-old, who will be reunited with the Toronto oval's leading rider Emma-Jayne Wilson, faces a two-prong attack from the United States. Todd Pletcher starts Willard Straight and Angel Penna Jr. saddles his fast-improving pupil, Remarkable News.Among the Canadian-based entrants are last year's turf champion Jambalaya and defending Connaught Cup victor Le Cinquieme Essai.Sky Conqueror, who is trained by Darwin Banach, enters the 1 1/16-mile event with strong U.S. form of his own, having finished third in his 2006 debut against tough allowance company at Keeneland in Kentucky.The William Sorokolit Jr. charge closed extremely wide on the second turn and improved in the stretch to finish just 1 ¼-lengths behind Karelian, the winner of the $51,475 event. "We expected him to run well. It was nice to see him close like he did for all the trouble he got into," said Banach. "Yet it was discouraging that he didn't win, because he really ran a winning race." The son of Sky Classic has shown that when traffic troubles are minimized, the talented chestnut's late speed is lethal, as he demonstrated in two consecutive victories over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course last October, including a brilliant try over Blue Rodeo on Oct. 1. The homebred colt kicked off his career at Gulfstream Park with two starts during the winter of 2005. Before he could make a third start, Sky Conqueror contracted a bout of 'strangles,' a contagious condition that hit Florida Thoroughbreds hard last year.
After three months in quarantine, Banach had to start from scratch to turn him back into a racehorse. "There wasn't a whole lot left to him when I got him," he said. "He was a rack of bones. At that time, I was almost embarrassed to train him because he looked terrible. Every week, he seemed to change and started filling out."With last year's setbacks behind him and a full season ahead, Sky Conqueror may be poised for a breakout 2006 campaign on the turf. With only eight starts beside his name, he has plenty of room to continue to improve.$150,000 CONNAUGHT CUP (Can-III, Race 8), 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
1/Last Answer/Emile Ramsammy/Michael Keogh
2/Sky Conqueror/Emma-Jayne Wilson/Darwin Banach
3/Le Cinquieme Essai/Steve Bahen/Paul Nielsen
4/Awesome Action/Rob Landry/Sue Leslie
5/Estevan/Patrick Husbands/Josie Carroll
6/Colorful Judgment/Slade Callaghan/Mark Frostad
7/Jambalaya/Jono Jones/Catherine Day-Phillips
8/Remarkable News/Javier Castellano/Angel Penna Jr.
9/Willard Straight/Todd Kabel/Todd Pletcher