The Coaching Club American Oaks (gr.1) will easily trump all other filly and mare races over the course of the weekend with its deep and compact field of sophomore fillies, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t action happening elsewhere on the continent that isn’t worthy of notice. The $150,000 Ontario Matron Stakes (gr.3) at Woodbine on Sunday features an interesting and competitive field of seven older fillies and mares led by three time stakes winner Embur’s Song. Of the seven fillies entered in the Matron, six have tallied up wins in stakes and three are graded stakes winners.
Breaking from post position number one is Grade 1 winner Hooh Why. She may have a Grade 1 on her resume but you have to go all the way back to early April of 2009 when she captured the Ashland Stakes to find it. Since completing her semi-successful 2009 campaign she has performed erratically, winning just four of nineteen starts since the Ashland. With four starts already this year, three in graded stakes races, the five year old mare has won an Allowance Optional Claiming race and finished 5th twice in Grade 3 stakes. She last finished 6th in the Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park. She hasn’t posted any works since finishing out of the money in the Chicago Handicap so unless she’s sitting on top of an unusually big race, I’d say she’s a toss. Never a safe thing to say about a Grade 1 winner.
Indian Apple Is breaks from post two, and at odds of 15-1 she is the second longest shot on the board. The five year old Indian Charlie filly has raced exclusively at Woodbine with mild success, garnering seven wins in nineteen starts. She began the year finishing third in the Whimsical Stakes (gr.3) and followed that up with a fourth place finish in the Hendrie Stakes (gr.3). Her last effort was a sixth place effort in the Sweet Briar Too Stakes, missing fifth by a nose to Ariana D. The 1 1/16 miles of the Ontario Matron doesn’t seem to be her best distance as her winning performances have mostly come in the seven and six furlong range.
In post three is five time stakes winner and dual graded stakes winner Biofuel. Last year Biofuel won four of her six starts, including the Grade 3 Selene Stakes, and finished second and third in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Mother Goose Stakes respectively, both Grade 1’s. Making her first start of 2011 in the Sweet Briar Too Stakes on July 1st she finished fourth as the high weight, beaten less than a length to the wire after navigating the final turn seven wide. She’s got a lot of upside and with all the time she had off between 2010 and 2011 she’s had an abundance of time for growth and improvement. She’s won at the distance over the same strip and enters off a solid 1:00.60 five furlong work. This filly has a very good chance to bounce back and steal the show.
[Hooh Why ranks #454 on HRN's active horses rankings page while Biofuel doesn't even make the top 500. Will that change after Sunday?]
Post number four goes to Stormy Illusion, the only mare in the field without stakes experience. In her fourth year of racing this year, Stormy Illusion has started just two times so far, finishing sixth in Allowance Optional Claiming and then coming back one month later to capture an Allowance Optional Claiming race by 2 ½ lengths on July 2nd. The distance and track won’t be a problem but I don’t think she’ll be winning this race in her first stakes try, but don’t count her out of the exotics at tempting odds
Embur’s Song bring the strong form in to the Ontario Matron for trainer Todd Pletcher, having captured three consecutive stakes races, including a 3 ½ length triumph in the Hendrie Stakes (gr.3) where she easily defeated Ariana D, Indian Apple Is and Hooh Why. Back in April the Unbridled’s Song filly defeated Check the Label by a nose after holding on in the stretch to win the Doubledogdare Stakes (gr.3) at Keeneland. She enters the race off an easy :49.54 four furlong work and will break from post five.
Dancing Raven has raced four times this year, finishing third once, second twice and registering a win in the Ballade Stakes two starts back. With four wins in twelve lifetime starts, all at Woodbine, and the worst two finishes of her career being two fourth place finishes in stakes races, you have to respect her chances to hit the board. This will be her first attempt in graded stakes company and she posted a bullet six furlong work in preparation.
Ariana D has run twenty times in her career so far and has crossed the finish line first in seven of those attempts. She has clearly proven best at sprint distances, winning all but one of her races from 5 ½ to 7 furlongs. The exception came when she captured a one mile allowance race at Presque Isle Downs in the summer or 2009 by 2 ½ lengths. Distance doesn’t appear to be an issue from a pedigree standpoint and judging by her long-past 1 mile allowance win but you never can tell until they try.
This looks like a race between and Embur’s Song and Biofuel, both on paper and on the track. Embur’s Song is on a roll and in the best form of her career while Biofuel is coming in off a very close fourth place finish in her 2011 debut after more than nine months away from the track. Biofuel has the most potential to improve her position and looks like a candidate for a big run.