Todd Kabel, who equaled the late Avelino Gomez's mark of most stakes wins by a jockey in one season (36) in 2004, began another assault on the record by taking Saturday's 2005 opening day feature at Woodbine, the $140,475 Jacques Cartier Stakes aboard Ministers Wild Cat."It's a nice way to open the season, I got the monkey off my back," said Kabel, who netted his fourth Jacques Cartier crown (1994, King Ruckus; 1996, Demaloot Demashoot; 1999, Randy Regent). "I look forward to many more and hopefully, to a tremendous year."The four-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada's champion rider settled the son of Deputy Minister in third behind pacesetting longshot Gemini Dream and reigning champion Chris's Bad Boy through an opening quarter-mile in :22.58. After a half mile in :45.30, Ministers Wild Cat and Chris's Bad Boy, both making their 2005 debuts, made their bid for the lead, but at the top of the stretch the pair had company in the form of Judiths Wild Rush.With "Chris" fading, it was down to two in deep stretch, but Ministers Wild Cat would not be headed, emerging victorious by a nose in a six-furlong running time of 1.09.67.Kabel wasn't so sure. "I thought the other horse (Judiths Wild Rush) had me. He had momentum on me. My horse was getting tired, but he was digging in hard.""(Ministers Wild Cat) ran a helluva race," said winning conditioner Scott Fairlie, who, ironically enough, handled training duties for Judiths Wild Rush up until December of last year. "He was down in Florida training for most of the winter. He dug in today."In victory, Ministers Wild Cat collected $83,325 for owners Hal Snowden Jr. and Marjorie and Irving Cowan, boosting his career earnings to $300,397.
He returned $13.10, $5.90, $4, combining with Judiths Wild Rush ($10.50, $4.60) for a $119.60 exacta. Wando, 2003 Triple Crown champion and Horse of the Year, was third and returned $4 to show. The trifecta paid $455.50.(Chart, Equibase)