Feathers Flies to Ontario Fashion Repeat

Feathers flew down a muddy Woodbine stretch Saturday to win the six furlong $142,625 Ontario Fashion Stakes for fillies and mares for the second straight year.

In doing so, the 5-year-old daughter of Cherokee Run, ridden by Jim McKnight, picked a perfect spot to nail her first win of the season in six starts.

The dark bay mare went postward the 3-1 second choice as part of an entry with Miss Sweep. The heavy favorite was El Prado Essence, whom she had defeated in this race last year.

Dreams Go Bye seized an early lead and floated the field through a quarter in 21.74 and a half in 44.50. But as the field came off the far turn, rallying El Prado Essence and Todd Kabel appeared to have the field at her mercy. However, swooping up on the outside was Sheila's Prospect and jockey Jim McAleney, who then proceeded to take command and open several lengths in early stretch.

That's when McKnight went to work on his mare, who had been eighth early on. Feathers blew by in late stretch, scoring by a half-length in 1:10.82. Her entrymate, Miss Sweep, also rallied along the inside to finish third, three-quarters of a length further back. Marisa Go came on for fourth, with the even money choice El Prado Essence fading to fifth.

"We were touch and go with her, whether we were going to run her in here," said trainer Ralph Biamonte. "She's one of the fillies on the grounds that contracted the West Nile virus. We really didn't know until this morning that we were going to run her. She's amazing like that. (Something) seems to happen every year with her."

Feathers certainly recovered enough to put the bite on her rivals today. Last year, she made only five starts, wining three and finishing second once, in banking $149,651. This year, she'd twice finished second and third before finding the winner's circle today.

The 50-year-old McKnight, who was voted the Avelino Gomez Award in 2000 for career accomplishments as a jockey, stopped riding early this summer, planning to return to his family in Kentucky. However, the lure of the track proved too much and he returned to Woodbine in late summer to continue a 30-year career in which he's won over 2,900 races.

Feathers picked up a pot of $83,775 to push her earnings this season to over $159,000, bettering last season's total.

She paid $8.80, $4.70 and $5.50 across the board, combining with Sheila's Prospect ($8.30, $6.40) for a $58.50 (1-9) exacta. The trifecta with Marisa Go returned $677.10.

(Chart, Equibase)