Trained by Kevin Attard, the 5-year-old Cowtown Cat chestnut, who took this event last season, has enjoyed a solid campaign with three wins from five starts, including scores in the Jacques Cartier, Achievement, and Ontario Jockey Club Stakes. However, a narrow neck loss to Kennedy Road rival Stacked Deck last time out in the Bold Venture Stakes (Can-III) has created something of a showdown in Sunday's six furlong Polytrack sprint.
"He's proven enough so far that he's still the top sprinter in Canada," Attard said. "Hopefully a win on Sunday will be the icing on the cake. He's had a good freshening for this race."
In the Bold Venture, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint on the synthetic track, which featured a field of just four horses, Calgary Cat, although last at the half, was sitting closer than usual and was unable to reel in the Barb Minshall-trained Stacked Deck, who pressed the pace of Essence Hit Man before making the lead and fighting bravely to the wire.
"He suffered a tough loss last time, but we're hoping to make amends on Sunday," Attard said. "It was a four-horse field and that makes it hard for an off-the-pace sprinter. He's had to work hard all season long, right from his first race, and in small fields where the pace scenario doesn't set up for you.
"(In the Bold Venture) we were caught in the middle of the racetrack. He took a little bounce coming down to the wire and all credit to Barb's horse, he was game that day and wouldn't let us go by either. That race is over and we're ready for the next one."
On Sunday, Calgary Cat's task will be helped by a field of 12 with a marked pace presence, however Woodbine's leading rider Eurico Rosa da Silva will have to work out a trip from the outside post.
Off since his runner-up effort Sept. 13, Calgary Cat steps into Sunday's test with a bullet half-mile breeze in :47 flat Nov. 15 over the Woodbine main.
"I was very pleased with the way he went. He galloped out well," Attard said.
Woodbine's head clocker Ernie Perri was also pleased with the effort of the runner, a $25,000 claim two years ago, who blossomed into a graded stakes winner and Canadian Horse of the Year finalist.
Perri timed Calgary Cat through an opening quarter in :23 flat, with the final quarter clocked in an even :24, and out in :59 3/5.
"'Cat' is his usual self coming into his next race," Perri said. "It was a very easy half-mile breeze. He skipped over the track."
Attard, who has 45 wins from 182 starts at the Woodbine meet, is currently second in the trainer standings behind runaway leader Mark Casse, who has posted 74 wins from 414 starts.
"It's been a phenomenal year," said Attard, who is quick to share responsibility for the success. "I have good owners that allow me to do my job and a good staff that works very hard. That and a combination of putting the right horse in the right spots."
Stacked Deck, a Bruce Lunsford homebred son of First Samurai —Bel Air Beauty, has won three of eight starts this meet and is four for six lifetime over the Polytrack. The dark bay gelding has raced twice since his Bold Venture coup, finishing third at Keeneland in the off-the-turf Woodford (gr. III) won by Amelia's Wild Ride, just two lengths back of runner-up Mongolian Saturday. Stacked Deck then tried his luck in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT), won by Mongolian Saturday, finishing 10th.
He breezed four furlongs in :47 2/5 over the Woodbine Polytrack Nov. 15, in his final prep for the Kennedy Road. Luis Contreras will ride.
Bye Bye Bernie, a surprise 22-1 winner of the Nearctic Stakes (Can-IIT) last time out, will return for Sunday's main track dust up. The five-year-old Bernstein gelding, trained by Brendan Walsh for DARRS Inc., settled perfectly in mid-pack for rider Rafael Hernandez in the Nearctic before angling out for the stretch run to reel in The Great War while outfinishing Kennedy Road rival Summation Time. Hernandez returns for the mount.
Frank DiGiulio Jr.'s homebred Goodoldhockeygame, trained by Robert Tiller, arrives at the Kennedy Road in career form on a three-race win streak that includes a score in the seven furlong Overskate Stakes. The multiple stakes winning son of Old Forester —Domasca Bella captured the prep for this event with a rallying 3/4-length score over Kennedy Road rival Paso Doble Oct. 31. Patrick Husbands retains the mount on the 3-year-old chestnut making his graded stakes debut.
Graded stakes winner Excaper, a debut victor on the Polytrack in 2011, will make his first start on a synthetic surface since finishing fourth in the 2011 edition of the Grey Stakes (Can-III). The 6-year-old Exchange Rate gray, trained by Ian Black, made the grade last season in the Connaught Cup (Can-IIT). Excaper makes his eighth start of the campaign Sunday with rider Gary Boulanger aboard the fan favourite for the first time, charged with guiding to his hopeful to his first win in 2015.
Woodbine, Sunday, November 22, 2015, Race 8
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Rexton (ON) Jermaine V. Bridgmohan 119 John Mattine 20/1 2 2Paso Doble (KY) Justin Stein 119 Mark Fournier 12/1 3 3Bye Bye Bernie (KY) Rafael Manuel Hernandez 119 Brendan P. Walsh 6/1 4 4Bear No Joke (ON) Jeffrey Ian Alderson 115 Reade Baker 20/1 5 5Stacked Deck (KY) Luis Contreras 119 Barbara J. Minshall 4/1 6 6Copperplate (KY) David Moran 115 Daniel J. Vella 20/1 7 7Passion for Action (ON) Omar Moreno 114 Michael P. De Paulo 15/1 8 8Excaper (KY) Gary Boulanger 115 Ian Black 20/1 9 9Summation Time (FL) Alan Garcia 115 Christophe Clement 8/1 10 10Glenville Gardens (KY) Emma-Jayne Wilson 118 Sid C. Attard 10/1 11 11Goodoldhockeygame (ON) Patrick Husbands 118 Robert P. Tiller 10/1 12 12Calgary Cat (ON) Eurico Rosa Da Silva 124 Kevin Attard 2/1
Woodbine, Sunday, November 22, 2015, Race 8