A sloppy surface was just what the connections of Miss Grindstone ordered, helping the 5-year-old mare capture Sunday's $164,250 Bessarabian Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine, her fourth win in as many starts on an off track. The daughter of Grindstone battled for the early lead with favorite El Prado Essence, before putting that one away in the stretch for the victory in the seven-furlong feature. The time of the race was 1:23.21 on a blustery day at Toronto oval.It was the fifth win from eight starts in 2004 for the Kentucky bred and fourteenth overall in 26 lifetime races.Ray Sabourin had Miss Grindstone on the engine early, going head-and-head with El Prado Essence through an opening quarter-mile clip in :22.52, the latter a half-length in arrears after a half-mile in :45.04. At the top of the stretch, a confident Sabourin had the dark bay ready for the challenge of El Prado Essence, who put forth a game effort in her final career race but couldn't close the gap. Miss Grindstone crossed the wire three lengths in front.It was the third trip to the winner's circle in the past four starts for Miss Grindstone, who raised her career earnings to $618,179 for trainer Frank Passero and owner Bill Robbins."She broke great, she was comfortable where she was and she kicked on when she needed to," said Sabourin, of the wire-to-wire score. "Frank said she'd be in tip-top shape and when she turned the corner, she went on with it." Passero, who saddled his first Bessarabian winner, was equally pleased with the added-money triumph.
"I told Ray to be close to the pace, but I really didn't want him to be in front, so that we could kick it down the lane," offered Passero, of the pre-race plan. "I thought he was too close, but he came on with it. This mare is really good right now."Miss Grindstone, the 4-1 second choice, returned $10.10, $3.20, $2.70, combining with El Prado Essence ($2.40, $2.10) for a $22.70 exacta. Surprised Humor ($3.50) completed the $94.70 trifecta. Ginger Gold, the 2002 Labatt Woodbine Oaks champion, was scratched.(Chart, Equibase)