Saturday’s feature is the $150,000 Victoria Stakes for open two-year-old colts and geldings, but the added-money contest of the afternoon is the $100,000 Zadracarta for fillies and mares, travelling seven furlongs over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
One of the first indicators that the Zadracarta will be an exciting race is the difficulty that exists in identifying who the public will land on as the favorite. The Morning Line oddsmaker has selected the Melnyk Racing homebred Barracks Road as the early choice, but it’s hard to fathom an individual that hasn’t hit the board since 2010 being the one.
Firstly, Barracks Road, a five-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality, was awful on the Polytrack in her first race of the season, finishing fourth of five with a mediocre speed figure. Some will make the case that she needed the effort because it was her first start in 16 months. Granted, but trainer Mark Casse doesn’t send out very many short horses, especially ones with this class. Barracks Road was drilling with authority in the morning in advance of her comeback, which makes the disappointing result even more concerning.
In 2010, she was certainly a star and her best two scores came over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course came at one mile in the Ontario Damsel and Ontario Colleen. Her comeback race at just six furlongs didn’t send any signals that she was ready. The more prudent approach may be to wait for this multiple-stakes winning Ontario-bred to show that she still possesses the ability to compete at this level.
That said, Barracks Road will be on the engine and even if she’s not right, she’s still likely, with her natural speed, to compromise the chances of a few of her rivals, like the apparent second choice in the Zadracarta, for instance, Moonlit Beauty.
The William Gierkink homebred is 7-for-28 lifetime with over $411,791 in earnings. If Premiere McGuinty is listening, she`s a tremendous Ontario-sired success story. It appears the Morning Line oddsmaker made her 7-2 on the strength of her overall record and not by her pari-mutuel past performance. Moonlit Beauty hasn`t been a price lower than 5-1 in over 12 races. Even when she won last year`s Belle Geste, she was a whopping 5.65-1.
The public is generally right to be skeptical of the daughter of Perigee Moon. Her most impressive races have been where she can coast on an easy lead and finish with authority. That`s what happened in the Belle Geste, when she went fractions of :23 2/5 and :47 1/5 in a seven furlong race. This year’s edition of the Zadracarta is top-heavy with early speed and early presser types that will make it difficult for her to work out the favorable trip that has made her a multiple stakes winner.
Moonlit Beauty exits a nice victory in an optional claimer at one mile over the turf, where Eurico Rosa Da Silva positioned her just back of a less-than-ambitious front-runner and she inherited the lead in the stretch. The speed-favoring nature of the course in the opening weeks of the season made her difficult to catch, though Silent Moon almost got the job done, coming up a half-length shy.
Moonlit Beauty won’t be able to clear early with the presence of Barracks Road. If she tries to stalk she’ll be fighting for position with three other serious contenders: Athena Rose, Strike Red and Wonderfully.
Athena Rose has been pegged at an embarrassing morning line quote of 20-1. It’s a good thing Glenn Magnusson doesn’t care about such things! Perhaps it’s because the daughter of Mutakddim began her career in 0-for-15 fashion. How long can that be held against this chestnut filly. She’s reeled off two impressive victories since then, including a narrow 18-1 upset in last fall’s Jammed Lovely Stakes over the Polytrack.
However, the four-year-old broke her maiden in smashing fashion over a yielding E.P. Taylor Turf Course. It’s hard to say whether the :47 pace was a function of the wet going or a pedestrian pace. The 6 ½-furlong event stopped the clock in 1:19 2/5, so she was going quicker early than late. In any event, she enters the Zadracarta as a versatile runner with more of a tendency to wait and pounce than to lead early. Under Justin Stein, that will be an interesting advantage. She has yet to compete this year, which indicates that her connections have been pointing for this race all season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if she’s ready to roll.
The now-horse in the field is the Sam-Son runner Strike Red. She was pegged at 4-1 in the program but she’ll likely be closer to 2-1 or 5-2, vying for favoritism with the local star Jenny’s So Great. Strike Red exits a 6 ½-furlong score, in which she dominated her 10 rivals with her middle and late speed. The Smart Strike filly won the first-level allowance by four lengths under Eurico Rosa da Silva, who has chosen her over Moonlit Beauty. Strike Red is 2-for-3 lifetime and 2-for-2 over the Woodbine turf. She’s most dangerous here because she can lead or she can stalk.
Last but certainly not least is the defending champion of the Zadracarta, Jenny’s So Great. It’s a complete and total pipedream to call this seven-time winner of $621,442 a 6-1 shot. Smart horseplayers would drool over that price. She’s 4-for-9 over the local course, including a grade 3 victory in the Royal North last year. The Greg De Gannes mare’s form is a bit clouded of late, but only because of a winter campaign in Florida where on two occasions they tried to stretch her out against classy rivals like Zagora, Keertana and Tapitsfly.
Jenny’s So Great will get the chance in the Zadracarta to do what she does best -- sprint over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course. To her benefit, the course has been a bit kinder to off-the-pace types in recent days. There’s no guarantee the pace will be crazy, but at the very least it should be honest, which is all she needs. And once again, don’t expect 6-1.
Who do you like in the Zadracarta? Do you agree that the Morning Line is a bit off in this race?