Norfolk Knight Springs Upset at Woodbine

(from Woodbine report)
Margaret Squires' Norfolk Knight, with Jill Scharfstein aboard, pulled an upset in Saturday's featured $129,375 Steady Growth Stakes, an Ontario Sires event at Woodbine.

Sent to the front into the first turn in the mile and one-sixteenth affair, Norfolk Knight took the field of six through a modest first quarter in :23.85, the half in a leisurely :48.08. Into the stretch, the 5-year-old gelding had more than enough in reserve in winning his first added money event. He fended off a challenge from Hot Pepper Hill to win by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:44.54.

Philadelphia Park invader Barath was third, another three lengths back, while the 3-5 favorite Barbeau Ruckus finished fourth.

It was the first stakes win for the 21-year-old Scharfstein, a Saskatchewan native who is in only her second season of riding at Woodbine, after riding in Alberta in 2002, competing at Grande Prairie and Northlands Park.

"When he dragged me out to the lead like that and he was doing it easy, I knew he was travelling pretty well down the backside and I thought he'd have something left in the tank," explained Scharfstein. "I had a lot of horse. If somebody had come to him again, he would have just pulled away."

Scharfstein, who finished third in Sovereign Award balloting last year to Julia Brimo as Canadas outstanding apprentice, has been the regular pilot of the son of Tejabo for the past two years.

Canadian Hall of Fame rider Hugo Dittfach, who began conditioning a public stable after he quit riding in the late 1980's, has trained Norfolk Knight from the outset. While it wasn't Dittfach's first stakes win (that was Arctic Squire in the 1999 Deputy Minister), it certainly was a satisfying one.

"I get on the horses myself (in morning training) and when I get on them, I can tell what I've got," said the 67-year-old Dittfach. "He relaxes. He's not a horse that people would call speedy crazy. If you don't call him, he always has something left. That's what I wanted her (Scharfstein) to do. I didn't want her to take him back and I didn't want her to send him. That's what she did. She left him alone and allowed him to relax on the lead."

It was the first win in four starts this year for Norfolk Knight after racking up more than $245,000 in earnings last season, his first, while winning five of 14 starts.

As the 5-1 third choice, Norfolk Knight paid $12.50, $5.50 and $4.00, combining with Hot Pepper Hill ($7.40, $4.70) for a $114.30 (4-1) exacta. Barath ($4.70) completed a trifecta worth $608.30.

(Chart, Equibase)