Vanderlin Surprises in Play the King

(from Woodbine report)
Vanderlin, a 6-year-old son of Halling, made his North American debut a winning one, capturing the (U.S.) $195,206 Play the King Stakes (Can-II) by a head Saturday at Woodbine.

Trained by Andrew Balding, the British bred will be one of the favorites for the upcoming $1 million Atto Mile (Can-I), Sept. 18 at Woodbine.

With Martin Dwyer aboard the 11-1 shot, Vanderlin overcame a slow start before methodically picking off his rivals, collaring Le Cinquieme Essai in the final jumps to reign victorious in the seven-furlong feature.

"He's never run over here before; the (gate) stalls are so different, and he was away a little bit slowly," said Dwyer, who teamed with Balding to take the 2003 Pattison Canadian International (Can-I) with Phoenix Reach. "The horses over here, they're so much faster out of the gate, and it caught him by surprise."

Favored Soaring Free, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year and defending Play the King champion (the son of Smart Strike took the 2003 and 2004 runnings), sailed to an early lead, taking the 13-horse field through opening splits of :22.91 and :45.81.

Down the long E.P. Taylor Turf Course, Dwyer chose a middle path to make his run, a tactic that proved to be the perfect tonic for victory.

"They went fast, and I knew we'd come home good," said Dwyer, who recently captured the Wonder Where Stakes with Silver Highlight, also with Balding. "I was just waiting for the split. I didn't want to come out wide. I thought if we pulled out wide, we might not make the ground up. He fought really well and battled to win."

Vanderlin was clocked in 1:21.18 on firm going for his sixth race from 41 starts. The gelding came into the Play The King off a seventh-place finish at Goodwood (England) on July 26.

Le Cinquieme Essai, who brought a four-race win streak, finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Frank's Selection, who had finished second to Soaring Free in last year's race.

Soaring Free, the 2004 Atto Mile champion, finished sixth.

The winner returned $25.90, $13.00, and $8.40, combining with Le Cinquieme Essai ($16.70, $8.70) for a $472.10 exacta. Frank's Selection ($12.80 to show) completed a trifecta that was worth $7,514.00. With Old Forester fourth, the superfecta returned a whopping $75,437.25.

Fort Prado finished fifth, followed by Soaring Free, Awesome Action, My Lucky Strike, Dalavin, All Star Lover, Blakelock, Ministers Wild Cat, and I Thee Wed.

(Chart, Equibase)