Eye of the Sphynx has Woodbine Oaks in View

(from Woodbine report)
Sam-Son Farm's unbeaten Eye of the Sphynx heads a select field of five for Sunday's $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, the country's premier race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

The 1 1/8-mile Canadian classic has a post time at approximately 4:37 pm ET. All fillies carry 121 pounds.

Eye of the Sphynx, a homebred daughter of Smart Strike, has been established as the 6-5 morning line choice. Eye of the Sphynx drew post two.

Unraced as a juvenile, she's won all three of her starts this season, with the trio of victories all coming on off-tracks. After breaking her maiden in the slop at Keeneland in late April, the bay filly returned to Woodbine to win the seven furlong Fury Stakes May 9 by 3 ¾ lengths in the mud. She then captured the 1 1/16-mile Selene Stakes May 23 by a neck over a sloppy racetrack. In both stakes wins, she decisioned Oaks rival Silver Bird.

Last year, undefeated Too Late Now also won the Selene prior to her Oaks victory.

Should Eye of the Sphynx prevail, she would join Too Late Now as the only fillies to win the Oaks while unbeaten since the classic began in 1956.

"She's coming into the race in good order," said trainer Mark Frostad. "She's training well, she's a big, strong filly and hopefully the extra week between races will be of some benefit."

To be ridden by Woodbine's leading jockey Todd Kabel, Eye of the Sphynx will be seeking a record seventh Oaks win for Sam-Son, who last won the race in 2001 with champion Dancethruthedawn. Kabel is seeking his second Oaks victory, after guiding favorite Kirby's Song to the winner's circle in 1998. Frostad is looking for his third win, after Catch The Ring in 2000 and Dancethruthedawn in 2001.

Trainer Reade Baker will saddle three hopefuls in the Labatt Woodbine Oaks, including Jim McAlpine's Silver Bird, the 2-1 second choice breaking from the rail. The daughter of 1996 Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Lit de Justice won the Glorious Song Stakes last season while finishing second to My Vintage Port in both the Princess Elizabeth and in balloting for year-end honors.

This year, the grey filly, who'll be piloted by Jim McAleney, has twice finished second to Eye of the Sphynx, the latest being the Selene Stakes May 23 when dropping a neck decision after gaining a slight lead during the stretch battle.

Rui Pimentel will ride Peter Ho's Hong Kong Dancer, the 7-2 third choice, from post five. She comes into the Oaks off only two career starts, but like Eye of the Sphynx, is also unbeaten. After breaking her maiden impressively on May 1, the daughter of Tejano Run stretched out to 1 1/16 mile and blew away her rivals by more than six lengths. She'll try to make history as the first filly to win the Oaks with only two previous career starts.

Baker's other entrant is George Farr's Touchnow, a daughter of Pleasant Tap. A winner once in four career starts, she's been listed as a 15-1 longshot from post four, but will have the services of four-time Sovereign Award-winning rider Patrick Husbands, who is seeking his first Oaks win.

My Vintage Port, last year's Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top 2-year-old filly, drew post three and is pegged at 6-1. Trained by Ken Parsley, who also shares ownership with Richard Pettifer, My Vintage Port won three stakes in 2003, including the prestigious Princess Elizabeth.

The field's leading money-winner with $395,653, will be handled once again by Jono Jones. She's winless in three outings this season but enters the Oaks off a second place finish to Blonde Executive in the Lady Angela May 29. The last Sovereign Award-winning juvenile filly to win the Oaks the following year was Ginger Gold in 2002.

Augustin Stable's Nashinda, who would have vied with Eye of the Sphynx for favoritism, was not entered Friday morning by trainer Mac Benson after she returned to the barn yesterday lame from a morning gallop.

"I wish I knew (what happened)," said Benson. "She trained yesterday morning and then when she cooled out, she just cooled out lame. So we pulled the shoe off, stuck her in a tub and tried to draw whatever it is out. Whether it's a stone bruise, something festering, I don't know. But we've taken all kinds of pictures."

With Nashinda's defection, the Oaks field of five ties the record for the smallest since five competed in 1965.

The Labatt Woodbine Oaks is the first leg of the Triple Tiara, followed by the Labatt Bison City Stakes at Fort Erie July 4 and the turf Wonder Where Stakes August 1 at Woodbine. Any filly that wins all three earns up to a $350,000 bonus. Since being instituted in 1999, however, the Triple Tiara has yet to be claimed.

$500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, 3-year-old fillies bred in Canada, 1 1/8 mile
1/Silver Bird/Jim McAlpine/Reade Baker/Jim McAleney
2/Eye Of The Sphynx/Sam-Son Farm/Mark Frostad/Todd Kabel
3/My Vintage Port/Ken Parsley & Richard Pettifer/Ken Parsley/Jono Jones
4/Touchnow/George Farr/Reade Baker/Patrick Husbands
5/Hong Kong Dancer/Peter Ho/Reade Baker/Rui Pimentel