The first graded stakes of the year in Canada, the $150,000 Whimsical Stakes (Can-III) for older fillies and mares at six furlongs on the main track April 18, brings together a field of eight horses, two of which have started this year.
Stakes winners Dancing Allstar, Arden Belle, and Verdana Bold, all returning from long breaks, figure to find solid support in the Polytrack event. But two others, Proud Heiress and Smart Surprise, have a fitness edge that could prove a deciding factor.
Smart Surprise, winner of the Bessarabian Stakes over the track to close out her 2008 campaign Nov. 23, has had two starts at 1 1/16 miles on dirt this year for trainer Josie Carroll. The 5-year-old daughter of Smart Strike is coming off a fifth-place finish in Oaklawn Park's Azeri Stakes (gr. III) March 8. Three weeks prior to that, she romped by 6 1/4 lengths in the Chou Crute Handicap over a sloppy Fair Grounds strip.
Owned by Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings, the Azeri was the first time in 16 tries that Smart Surprise failed to finish in the money. The chestnut mare has a 4-7-4 lifetime mark and earnings of $243,794. David Clark rides Smart Surprise, who breaks from post 2.
Proud Heiress, who will be making her first start at Woodbine, won her first stakes in Turfway Park's Wishing Well Stakes Jan. 10 by nearly two lengths on Polytrack at odds of 32-1. She returned to Turfway March 21 to run second in the Queen Stakes. Both efforts were at the Whimsical distance of six furlongs. Wayne Mogge trains the 5-year-old Broken Vow mare for Michael Cavey. Robert Landry draws the riding assignment.
Dancing Allstar was Canada's champion 2-year-old filly in 2007 when she began a winning streak that would stretch to six races, all stakes victories, before losing in the United States last summer.
Trained by Terry Jordan for Bahadur Cheema, the British Columbia-bred 4-year-old Millennium Allstar filly has not raced since Aug. 30, an absence of nearly eight months. Dancing Allstar is the speed of the field and figures to dictate the pace from post 5 under James McAleney. The chestnut has eight victories in 13 lifetime starts with earnings of $422,159.
Verdana Bold is the field's lone graded stakes winner after capturing Woodbine's 1 1/16-mile Selene Stakes (gr. III) last spring by a head over Grace and Power in all-out effort for trainer Daniel Vella. Owned by co-breeder Edward Seltzer, the 4-year-old daughter of Rahy has also been off since Aug. 30, when she tired to eighth after leading in the stretch run of the Ontario Colleen on the grass. She has won four of nine starts, including Woodbine's six-furlong Star Shoot last year, and $300,640.
Arden Belle, making her first start since finishing third behind Smart Surprise in the Bessarabian last fall, leads the field in earnings with $549,153. Among her seven career victories are back-to-back wins in Woodbine's 1 1/16-mile Algoma Stakes. The 6-year-old daughter of Dance Brightly, owned by Salt and Pepper Stable and trained by Robert Gerl, has won twice at six furlongs.
Ontario breds Hello Maggie May and London Snow, both victorious in Woodbine stakes last year, and allowance winner Mimi Cooper round out the field
$150,000 Whimsical Stakes (Can-III, Race 8, 4:36 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 6 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Arden Belle (ON), 118, Emile Ramsammy
2. Smart Surprise (KY), 117, David Clark
3. Proud Heiress (KY), 114, Robert C. Landry
4. Hello Maggie May (ON), 116, Jono C. Jones
5. Dancing Allstar (BC), 114, James McAleney
6. London Snow (ON), 118, Steven R. Bahen
7. Mimi Cooper (FL), 114, Justin Stein
8. Verdana Bold (KY), 120, Tyler Pizarro