(from track report)
Sam-Son Farm's Soaring Free flew to a stakes record-equalling performance in the $286,500 Nearctic Stakes Handicap (Can-IIT) Sunday at Woodbine, a sizzling 1:07.73 for the six-furlong turf event.
Piloted by Todd Kabel, the 4-year-old gelded son of Smart Strike forced the pace issue before taking over turning into the stretch. After a half in 44.35 seconds, Soaring Free, under mild left-handed urging by Kabel, not only repelled the challenge of co-favorite and high weight (121 pounds) Nuclear Debate and jockey Eibar Coa in mid-stretch, but was pulling away near the wire, winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Longshot Solitary Dancer got up in the last jump to edge Nuclear Debate, the defending Nearctic champion, by a head for second.
"He ran a great race today," said winning trainer Mark Frostad. "We're very pleased with that effort, obviously. He won pretty impressively. We thought he had a great shot coming into the race but it was a tough race ... a lot of good horses in this race. We were hoping for a win and it came true."
By capturing the Nearctic and its $171,900 first place prize, Soaring Free, who carried 115 pounds, notched his first stakes win and remained unbeaten in three starts this year. He won two of six efforts in 2002. He also equalled the stakes mark set by Wild Zone in 1996 (1:07 3/5) and has now banked over $360,000.
"We were so high on this horse last year. He had bucked shins and this and that, very coltish," added Kabel. "Finally Mark (Frostad) gelded him and this horse has really turned around. I was looking really forward to riding him on the turf. He showed his strut today and there's a lot more left to be seen of this horse. He's a very, very good horse.
For Kabel, it was his leading 10th stakes win of the season, one he has dedicated to his late father. He also has stated that one of his seasonal goals is to break Avelino Gomez' record of 32 stakes wins set in 1966.
Soaring Free, a slight favorite, returned $6.20, $3.90 and $2.90 and paired with Solitary Dancer ($9.80, $5.40) for a $61.90 (11-10) exacta. Nuclear Debate ($3) completed a trifecta worth $216.10.