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 Philanthropist—trained by Mike De Paulo for owners Denny Andrews, Sandra Lazaruk, and Robert and Roberta Giffin—sports a record of 12-10-7 from 40 career starts and purse earnings in excess of $1.9 million.
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.
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.
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.
Woodbine, Sunday, November 29, 2015, Race 10 Woodbine, Sunday, November 29, 2015, Race 8
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Patrioticandproud (PA) Patrick Husbands 117 Mark E. Casse 6/1 2 2Melmich (ON) Eurico Rosa Da Silva 119 Kevin Attard 2/1 3 3Desvelo (ARG) Gary Boulanger 115 Kelly Rubley 20/1 4 4Midnight Aria (ON) Steven Ronald Bahen 115 Nicholas Gonzalez 15/1 5 5Royal Blessing (NY) Justin Stein 115 Brendan P. Walsh 20/1 6 6Royal Son (KY) Emma-Jayne Wilson 117 Todd A. Pletcher 5/2 7 7Habibi (NZ) Alan Garcia 116 Mark R. Frostad 8/1 8 8Pender Harbour (ON) Luis Contreras 119 Michael P. De Paulo 4/1
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Greatest Game (KY) Patrick Husbands 115 Mark E. Casse 6/1 2 2Bear'sway (KY) Justin Stein 117 Reade Baker 2/1 3 3Monster Bea (KY) Eurico Rosa Da Silva 117 Mark E. Casse 3/1 4 4Don't Be So Salty (FL) Emma-Jayne Wilson 115 Gary C. Contessa 4/1 5 5Crescent Drive (KY) Luis Contreras 117 Darwin D. Banach 8/1 6 6Mollydooker (KY) Alan Garcia 115 Katerina Vassilieva 10/1 7 7Lamoriello (KY) David Moran 114 Michael J. Doyle 20/1 8 8Ruck (KY) James McAleney 117 Reade Baker 10/1
Woodbine, Sunday, November 29, 2015, Race 10
Woodbine, Sunday, November 29, 2015, Race 8