Messi wins the 2016 Sky Classic Stakes at Woodbine

Messi wins the 2016 Sky Classic Stakes at Woodbine

Michael Burns

Messi Returns to Woodbine for Northern Dancer

The two-time graded winner's last victory came in the 2016 Sky Classic Stakes (G2T).

Gestut Brummerhof's homebred Messi hasn't visited the winner's circle in more than a year, but he'll return to the location of his last victory in the $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (G1T) at Woodbine.

The two-time graded winner's last score came in the Sky Classic Stakes (G2T) at the Toronto track in August of 2016, and trainer Graham Motion was attracted to the Northern Dancer for that reason, among others.

"It's a combo of his success and how he ran up there, and the fact that it's a grade 1," the trainer said. "The owner also has (his family members), so anything he can do in a grade 1 is a contribution to his family. I also liked the timing of this race (after a third-place run in an optional-claiming allowance run at Saratoga Race Course July 21)."

LAMARRA: Messi Too Good for Sky Classic Field

The German-bred New Approach gelding may be the only North American graded winner in the field, but favoritism Saturday will almost surely land on Godolphin's group 1 winner Hawkbill, who is scheduled to make his first North American start.

The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Kitten's Joy  colt trained by Charles Appleby earned his top-level victory in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes (G1) at Sandown Park in July of 2016, but he's also won three other group races from his 17 starts—the 2016 Tercentenary Stakes (G3), the Al Rayyan Aston Park Stakes (G3), and the Princess Of Wales's Arqana Racing Club Stakes (G2) in July. His most recent start was a second-place finish in the Longines Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) at Hoppegarten in Germany, a length behind Dschingis Secret, who won the Qatar Prix Foy (G2) in his next start.

The only horse entering the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer off a victory is Colebrook Farms and Bear Stables' Johnny Bear. The 5-year-old English Channel gelding trained by Ashlee Brnjas took the OLG/OR Halton Stakes Presented by Tipperary Equestrian at 12 furlongs Aug. 30 at Woodbine by 3 1/4 lengths over fellow Northern Dancer entrant English Illusion, in a race restricted to horses foaled in Canada.

Hillsbrook Farms' 2016 Breeders' Stakes winner Camp Creek owns a win at the distance, having captured the Breeders' Stakes last year at Woodbine. He finished sixth in the Northern Dancer last year.

Maybe the most consistent runner on the Woodbine grass entered in the Northern Dancer is Al and Bill Ulwelling's Pumpkin Rumble, who exits three straight third-place finishes in graded stakes there—the Sky Classic, Nijinsky (G2), and Singspiel (G3).

Entries: Northern Dancer Turf S. (G1T)

Woodbine, Saturday, September 16, 2017, Race 10

  • Grade IT
  • 1 1/2m
  • Turf
  • $300,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 5:31 PM (local)
11English Illusion (ON)Eurico Rosa Da Silva119Daniel J. Vella20/1
22Camp Creek (ON)Rafael Manuel Hernandez119Kevin Attard20/1
33Noble Thought (KY)Patrick Husbands119Malcolm Pierce5/1
44Messi (GER)Jose L. Ortiz121H. Graham Motion4/1
55Pumpkin Rumble (PA)Jesse M. Campbell119Kevin Attard12/1
66Seeking Albert (ON)Keeneland Sales GraduateDavid Moran112Michael P. De Paulo20/1
77Johnny Bear (ON)Luis Contreras119Ashlee Brnjas15/1
88Hawkbill (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateColm O'Donoghue123Charles Appleby3/5