Green Mask takes the Turf Sprint Stakes at Churchill Downs

Green Mask takes the Turf Sprint Stakes at Churchill Downs

Coady Photography

Green Mask Looms Large in Highlander at Woodbine

Ultra-consistent Green Mask has class and recency edge in grass sprint.

Green Mask, second in his only previous visit to the Woodbine turf, has a class and recency advantage over his field and is the one to beat in the July 2 Highlander Stakes (G2T) going six furlongs. 

The $250,000 Highlander is for older turf sprinters, and for the first time is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race for an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T) at Del Mar.

Green Mask has been first or second in his last five trips to the post, dating back to last December, when he won the Bonapaw Stakes. On May 5 at Churchill Downs, he kicked away to take the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes presented by (G3T) and finished willingly to be second last out in the Jaipur Invitational Stakes (G3T) at Belmont Park. The 6-year-old Mizzen Mast  gelding has the speed to place himself just off the pace, or can run on from behind.

Calgary Cat is proven at Woodbine, but has done much of his running over the synthetic main surface. He ran well last out on the turf, finishing a close third in the Connaught Cup Stakes (G2T) after rallying wide. Two back, he failed to fire over good turf at Belmont in the Elusive Quality Stakes.

Calgary Cat ended 2016 with a good effort in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T), rallying from far back to check in fourth. He had won the Nearctic Stakes (G2T) in his previous start at Woodbine. Calgary Cat, who does his best running from behind, would benefit from a strong early pace.

Noholdingback Bear makes his first visit to Woodbine's grass, although he has won over the synthetic in the Woodstock Stakes last season. In fact, he has not run on turf since February 2016 when he finished second in the Texas Glitter Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He won the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) last summer, but has lacked his previous early speed in his last three efforts, including a seventh-place effort in the True North Stakes (G2) last out, hence the surface switch.

Commend will be trying graded company for the first time. He won a six-furlong allowance heat at Belmont last out and checked in second last summer in the Quick Call Stakes in his lone black-type appearance. Hootenanny  won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) in 2014 but has not backed up that effort, including a fourth in last year's Highlander. He is lightly raced and came off a seven-month freshening to run fourth in the Hanshin Cup Stakes (G3) in May on the synthetic at Arlington International Race Course.

Commute was pipped on the line by Tower of Texas in the Connaught last out after clearing the lead in the stretch. He is in solid form and will probably be a pace factor from the rail. Sweet Grass Creek has hit the board against Ontario-bred company in his last two so he will face a class test here. Don Camillo faced this type of company in last summer's Sky Classic Stakes (G2T) and failed to threaten.

Entries: Highlander S. (G2T)

Woodbine, Sunday, July 02, 2017, Race 4

  • Grade IIT
  • 6f
  • Turf
  • $250,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 1:39 PM (local)
11Commute (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduatePatrick Husbands117Mark E. Casse8/1
22Noholdingback Bear (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateEurico Rosa Da Silva121Michael P. De Paulo4/1
33Don Camillo (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRafael Manuel Hernandez117Norman McKnight20/1
44Green Mask (KY)Javier Castellano121Brad H. Cox2/1
55Sweet Grass Creek (ON)Jesse M. Campbell117Michael Keogh20/1
66Calgary Cat (ON)Luis Contreras123Kevin Attard5/2
77Commend (KY)Jose L. Ortiz117William I. Mott6/1
88Hootenanny (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJulio A. Garcia117Wesley A. Ward8/1