Just Rushing, a seven-time winner in 2006, made his seasonal debut a winning one, defeating some big-name rivals in the $150,000 Vigil Stakes (Can-III) (VIDEO) at Woodbine Saturday.
Even before the gates opened for the seven furlong Vigil, the odds appeared to be stacked against Just Rushing. Trained by Sid Attard and owned by Tucci Stables, the Ontario-bred gelding by Wild Rush had been away from racing action since Nov. 18, a fifth-place finish in the Woodbine Slots Cup (Can-III).
Facing Judiths Wild Rush, Canada's 2005 and 2006 sprint champion and Shillelagh Slew, last year's top 3-year-old male, the task seemed daunting. But the dark bay wouldn't be denied.
Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson took Just Rushing to the lead at the break, and set modest opening splits of :23.41 and :46.31.
Just Rushing, who recorded his twelfth career victory from 18 starts, was passed by Are You Serious in early stretch, but fought back in the final jumps to win by a neck. Judiths Wild Rush, who won the Vigil in 2005 and 2006, was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.
The final time was 1:23.87 over the Polytrack.
"This horse has got a ton of heart," said Attard. "He likes to run fresh. Emma gave him a hell of a ride."
Shillelagh Slew, who last year captured the Prince of Wales, second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown Series, along with a pair of grade III events, the Canadian Derby and Ontario Derby, finished fourth in his 4-year-old debut as the 6-5 favorite.
Just Rushing paid $8.60, $5 and $2.90. Are You Serious returned $7.50 and $3.80 for a $60.40 exacta. Judiths Wild Rush was $2.90 to show.
Bear Character and Good and Lucky trailed.