Winning Chance a Sure Thing in Ontario Matron

(from Woodbine track report)
Stronach Stables' Winning Chance kept her race record perfect this year with a dominating performance at Woodbine in Saturday's featured $189,375 Ontario Matron Stakes, for fillies and mares over 1 1/6 miles.

With Todd Kabel simply along for the ride, Winning Chance, a grey daughter of 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Alphabet Soup, was sent postward the overwhelming 3-5 choice. She ran like it, coasting to a six-length score, in 1:43.72. It was her third win of the season, her first stakes victory and her most impressive performance to date, considering the opposition.

The excellent Ontario Matron field included three Sovereign Award winners – Ginger Gold, the 2001 juvenile filly champion and winner of last year's Labatt Woodbine Oaks, Lady Shari, the 2002 3-year-old filly champion and Small Promises, last season's top older filly or mare.

Ginger Gold and jockey Richard Dos Ramos went immediately to the front, setting reasonable fractions of 23.81, 48.24 and 1:12.58. But Winning Chance was stalking the leader and appeared poised to pounce at any time.

Going around the far turn, Kabel and Winning Chance circled the pacesetter and the race was essentially over. The 4-year-old filly quickly drew away down the stretch under mild urging. Ginger Gold hung on for second, with Small Promises third.

"You never know coming into a race, but she's improved so much," said conditioner Dan Vella, who is saddling winners at Woodbine for Stronach Stables at better than a 33% clip. "She's just gotten better and better all year. We knew we were going to be real tough today and obviously she ran to the way she's been training."

"She was just all there for me today," added Kabel, who was notching a leading eighth stakes race of the season. "I was just a passenger today. She came back off her last race and ran the same race again today. This filly's just getting better. She was just on cruise."

Winning had knocked at the door several times last year in added-money events, dropping a nose decision to Jealous Forum in the Wilderness Song, then later finishing a neck behind Mulrainy in the La Lorgnette.

With a winning purse of $113,625, Winning Chance pushed her career bankroll to $358,418.

Making the trophy presentation to the winning connections was Ray Romano, star of the CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

She paid $3.50, $2.60 and $2.20, combining with Ginger Gold ($5.80, $3.70) for a $23.10 (2-6) exacta. A 2-6-5 (Small Promises, $3.10 to show) trifecta returned $62.30.

(Chart, Equibase)