Never Retreat picked up her second grade II win of the season on the Woodbine turf when she outlasted a deep field to capture the $309,145 Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT) Sept. 18 (VIDEO).
Team Block's Arlington Park-based 6-year-old daughter of Smart Strike won Woodbine's Dance Smartly Stakes (Can-IIT) July 10 at the Canadian distance of 1 1/8 miles. In her subsequent start, she finished seventh in the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) on a yielding Arlington turf course Aug. 13.
The Canadian was the seventh career stakes win for Never Retreat, four of them coming this year. Chris Block trains the winner, who surpassed the $1 million mark in earnings. Never Retreat was bred in Kentucky by Gerry O'Meara and Stanley Inman.
Never Retreat, sent off at odds of 6-1 with Julien Leparoux aboard, completed the one-turn test in a time of 1:45.13 while defeating the late-running 24-1 shot Perfect Shirl by a half-length. Stars to Shine finished third, with Fantasia fourth. The $1 superfecta returned $23,617.50.
An overflow group of 14 older fillies and mares contested the Canadian. The French-bred Zagora, winner of Saratoga's Diana Stakes (gr. IT) July 30, was the slight 3-1 favorite. The field also included Shared Account, winner of last year's Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), and the defending Canadian Stakes champion Miss Keller.
Never Retreat broke sharply from post 9 as 60-1 shot Woolly Bear cleared the field to reach the hedge narrowly in front of Never Retreat. Those two, along with a close-up Stars to Shine, showed the way through sensible quarter-mile fractions of :24.10 and :47.65.
As the field swung for home, the late markers were poised for attack as Never Retreat took over from the weakening Woolly Bear. But Never Retreat, leading Stars to Shine and jockey William Buick, through the lane, kept charging for the wire. Zagora and Shared Account loomed as potential challengers but flattened out, with only Perfect Shirl making up ground on the leader in deep stretch.
Perfect Shirl, who had circled the field under Patrick Husbands, passed Stars to Shine but ran out of time to catch Never Retreat, who finished under a firm hand ride from Leparoux. Perfect Shirl, who jostled briefly with Zagora in upper stretch, finished one length ahead of Stars to Shine. Zagora finished seventh.
“She broke good and put me in the race nice,” said Leparoux, who took over the mount for Sean Bridgmohan. “She relaxed beautifully for me. She got to the lead very early but she kept on going. She’s a nice filly.”
Never Retreat now has two wins and two seconds in four starts on the Woodbine turf. Her only loss in three starts over the course this year came in a second-place effort to Canadian rival Bay to Bay in the Nassau Stakes (gr. IIT) on yielding turf June 4.
“He (Leparoux) got her settled and relaxed pretty well and did a wonderful job," said Drew Coontz, assistant to Block. "She loves it here (at Woodbine). That was one of the decisions for bringing her back here.”
Never Retreat improved her career mark to 10-7-6 in 30 lifetime starts, with seven of those victories coming on grass. With the winning purse of $184,014, Never Retreat's lifetime earnings stand at $1,050,667. Besides her Woodbine triumphs, her other wins this year were the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland and the Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park during the spring.
The winning dark bay or brown mare is out of the Steady Growth mare Lisieux.
Carrying 121 pounds, Never Retreat paid $15.50, $7.40, $5.40. Perfect Shirl, one of three to start from the Roger Attfield barn, returned $23.30 and $15.10 while completing a $318.70 exacta. Stars to Shine, one of three in the field trained by Mark Frostad, paid $8 to show.
Fantasia was a half-length farther back in fourth, followed by MIss Keller, Shared Account, Zagora, Bay to Bay, Magic Broomstick, Apple Charlotte, Forest Uproar, Mekong Melody, Hooh Why, and Woolly Bear.