Winter Garden Blooms in Bessarabian

(from Woodbine report)
Winter Garden spotted her elders weight in Sunday's $164,400 Bessarabian Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine, but once again, she was simply the best.

The 3-year-old ridden by David Clark, facing older rivals and carrying 121 pounds, proved her status as one of Woodbine's top sprint specialists, by winning the seven-furlong Bessarabian in a gutsy effort against six talented rivals.

Clark had the bay in between rivals early in the one-turn event, a close fifth after a quarter-mile clip in :22.78 and in front by a half-length after a half-mile in :45.91. At the top of the stretch, the confident rider had the Star Shoot and Ontario Fashion Stakes winner on the outside of a game Mille Feville. Winter Garden dug in for a late challenge from El Prado Essence and Clark kept her busy. She responded by crossing the wire in front by one length.

The time of the race was 1:24.14 over a main track rated as "fast."

It was the third career stakes score and eighth win from 12 career starts for Winter Garden, and raised her career earnings to $549,328 for owner Frank DiGiulio Jr.

"I'm very proud of her," raved trainer Bob Tiller, of the Kentucky-bred. "She's certainly the top three-year-old filly in Canada as far as I'm concerned. She's proved her point."

Clark, who has now ridden Winter Garden to three consecutive wins, added, "This filly is so competitive, she's just lovely," he said. "I had a lot of horse under me. I never really had much worry."

Winter Garden, the strong favorite, returned $4.20, $2.50, $2.40, combining with El Prado Essence ($4.00, $3.50) for a $14.60 exacta. Mille Feville ($5.50) completed the $68.90 trifecta.

Also Sunday, rider Todd Kabel broke a personal mark with his 29th stakes victory this season, guiding Night Sky to victory in $106,000 Sunny's Halo Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Kabel, Woodbine's leading jockey, is three short of tying the record 32 added-money victories set by the late Avelino Gomez in 1966. The veteran pilot, who recently became the first-ever Woodbine-based rider to crack the $10-million mark in annual purse earnings, eclipsed the 28 added-money triumphs he notched in 1995, a year in which he won the Queen's Plate with Regal Discovery and the Sovereign Award as the nation's top jockey.

Morning line favorite Twisted Wit was scratched.

Night Sky paid $4.90, $3.00 and $2.10 across the board, combining with Cat Striker ($4.50, $2.50) for a $19.20 exacta. Winter Whiskey ($2.20) rounded out a $43.10 trifecta.

(Chart, Equibase)