Pender Harbour

Pender Harbour

Michael Burns

Pender Harbour Looks to Close Meet on High

Final stakes race of 2015 Woodbine Thoroughbred meet is gelding's last start.

The final race card of the 2015 Woodbine Thoroughbred racing season was drawn Nov. 26, signaling the end of the eight-month campaign that kicked off April 11.

Sunday's closing day, Nov. 29, which has a first-race post time of 1:00 p.m. ET, features 159 horses, plus 11 also-eligible runners, spread over a 14-race card.

Eurico Rosa da Silva, with 193 wins heading into Friday's card (and 24 mounts remaining through Sunday), holds a 20-win lead over Luis Contreras (who has 34 mounts remaining through Sunday) and will likely be crowned leading rider. Mark Casse leads all trainers with a decisive 77 wins, well clear of Kevin Attard who has won 47 races this meet.

The $150,000 Valedictory Stakes (Can-III) for older horses, at 1 3/4 miles, is the spotlight event on the meet's curtain-closing afternoon. It goes as race 10, a contest that features eight runners, including Melmich, a decisive winner of the Valedictory prep Nov. 5 for Attard and owners Stephen Chesney and Cory Hoffman.

Melmich, claimed for $20,000 in September of 2014, has now won seven of 10 starts for his new connections, including a score in the Elgin Stakes. Da Silva, who has guided the four-year-old Wilko chestnut to four of those wins this season, credits the trainer for the gelding's rise through the ranks to stakes winner.

"Kevin does a great job with the horse and gives the horse every opportunity to be good," da Silva said. "The horse is doing so well right now. I did work the horse (in 1:01 4/5 Nov. 22) and he is very happy and could not be coming into this race in any better shape."

Last time out, in the 1 5/8-mile Valedictory prep, Melmich stalked the leading Pender Harbour to the final turn before making his bid and shaking clear for a driving two-length score.

"I love the way he did it. He galloped out very strong," da Silva said. "This will be his second race going long and I don't think the extra distance will be an issue. He'll like it and this horse will run very well."

Da Silva has enjoyed watching Melmich develop this year.

"Some horses improve as they get older and this horse has been improving each start," the jockey said. "He's a much more relaxed horse now from when I first started riding him. He's never stopped improving and hopefully he can improve even more."

On Sunday, da Silva will let the race unfold as it will for the handy Melmich.

"He's quick and he has stamina. You can choose where you want to be with him," da Silva said. "If you want to be a little bit back with him, that's okay. If you want to go to the lead, he's okay there as well. He's a very easy horse to ride."

To win the Valedictory, Melmich will once again have to get the better of champion chestnut Pender Harbour, who will be retired following the Valedictory. The 7-year-old son of Philanthropisttrained by Mike De Paulo for owners Denny Andrews, Sandra Lazaruk, and Robert and Roberta Giffinsports a record of 12-10-7 from 40 career starts and purse earnings in excess of $1.9 million.

MCCALMONT: Pender Harbour: Farewell to 'The King'

His owners have graciously donated $15,000 in Pender Harbour's name to LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society to celebrate the end of his grand run at the races and the start of his new life and career as a riding horse in Western Canada. A victory in the Valedictory would make Pender Harbour, a $17,000 purchase at the 2009 CTHS, the leading CTHS Sale earner of all time, passing Mobil , who won $1,951,384. Pender Harbour, who was elevated to second in this event last season via disqualification, will be piloted by Luis Contreras. His 2-year-old full brother, Mike, makes his career debut earlier on the card in Race 3.

A talented field of eight also includes grade I-placed mare Habibi and the grade II-placed gelding Royal Son.

Habibi, trained by Mark Frostad for Augustin Stable, owns a record of 1-2-1 from seven starts this season including a victory in the grassy 1 1/2-mile Flaming Page Stakes. The 6-year-old Ekraar mare rallied to finish second, defeated just a half-length by Interpol, in the Northern Dancer (Can-IT) when facing the boys Sept. 14. Last time out, Habibi, again against open company, failed to fire in the Canadian International (Can-IT). Alan Garcia will ride.

Royal Son, trained by Todd Pletcher, has posted a pair of wins this season, including a 5 1/4-length score in the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in February.  Last time out, the 3-year-old Tiznow  bay set the pace in the Autumn Stakes (Can-III), finishing third behind Are You Kidding Me and Lukes Alley. Emma-Jayne Wilson picks up the mount.

Patrioticandproud, Desvelo, Midnight Aria, and Royal Blessing complete the field. Last year, Turkish won the Valedictory in a time of 3:02.09.

Also on closing day is the $125,000 Display Stakes for juveniles which features shipper Don't Be So Salty and locally-based Bear'sway, who arrives at the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack stakes on a two-race win streak.

Entries: Valedictory S. (G3)

Woodbine, Sunday, November 29, 2015, Race 10

  • Grade III
  • 1 3/4m
  • All Weather Track
  • $150,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 5:40 PM (local)
11Patrioticandproud (PA)Keeneland Sales GraduatePatrick Husbands117Mark E. Casse6/1
22Melmich (ON)Eurico Rosa Da Silva119Kevin Attard2/1
33Desvelo (ARG)Gary Boulanger115Kelly Rubley20/1
44Midnight Aria (ON)Keeneland Sales GraduateSteven Ronald Bahen115Nicholas Gonzalez15/1
55Royal Blessing (NY)Justin Stein115Brendan P. Walsh20/1
66Royal Son (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateEmma-Jayne Wilson117Todd A. Pletcher5/2
77Habibi (NZ)Alan Garcia116Mark R. Frostad8/1
88Pender Harbour (ON)Luis Contreras119Michael P. De Paulo4/1

Entries: Display S.

Woodbine, Sunday, November 29, 2015, Race 8

  • STK
  • 1 1/16m
  • All Weather Track
  • $125,000
  • 2 yo
  • 4:40 PM (local)
11Greatest Game (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduatePatrick Husbands115Mark E. Casse6/1
22Bear'sway (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJustin Stein117Reade Baker2/1
33Monster Bea (KY)Eurico Rosa Da Silva117Mark E. Casse3/1
44Don't Be So Salty (FL)Emma-Jayne Wilson115Gary C. Contessa4/1
55Crescent Drive (KY)Luis Contreras117Darwin D. Banach8/1
66Mollydooker (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateAlan Garcia115Katerina Vassilieva10/1
77Lamoriello (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDavid Moran114Michael J. Doyle20/1
88Ruck (KY)James McAleney117Reade Baker10/1