Sunday’s $150,000 Fury Stakes is one of the two main preps for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks in June. At seven furlongs, it provides three-year-old fillies with an effective starting point before stretching out in the Selene next month, if they so choose.
The Fury is also the only prep restricted to Canadian-bred fillies. Even though it is at a distance three furlongs shorter than the Oaks, it provides connections with their only shot to find out how their respective charge stacks up against the crop.
That’s interesting for a filly like Northern Passion, the lukewarm 8-5 favorite in today’s Fury. In six career starts, the Ontario-bred chestnut daughter of First Samurai has never been in a race restricted for Canadian-breds. The Mark Casse trainee broke her maiden at first asking and followed up with a gallant second to Tu Endie Wei in the Ontario Debutante. Then she captured the Grade 3 Natalma in her third career start and first ever try over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
Having competed in a pair of two-turn added-money events in Florida so far this year, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the Fury is a significant class drop for Northern Passion, who has been in town working regularly at Woodbine since the beginning of April.
If there’s a knock against the John Oxley charge, it’s that with all the ambitious scheduling she’s been forced to endure, she hasn’t managed to hit the board since last September, when she took the Natalma impressively.
The first mistake made was entering the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies instead of the Juvenile Fillies Turf. That resulted in a seventh place finish, 15 ¾ lengths in arrears of My Miss Aurelia. In her three-year-old bow, the $105,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs, she received a brutal trip from Sovereign Award winning pilot Luis Contreras, who had her 7 ½ lengths behind a :50 3/5 opening half mile. She closed wide through the lane but came up three-quarters of a length short of her winning stable-mate Dixie Strike.
Northern Passion returned five weeks later in the Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream Park and really has no impact on the 1 1/8-mile event. The comment line says she ‘steadied’ at the top of the stretch. After reviewing the replay this morning, it didn’t much hamper her rally or impact the sixth-place position in which she checked in. The effort certainly raises questions about her current form. Then again, the Gulfstream turf course is notoriously firm and it may just be a matter of her not appreciating its quickness.
In any event, the Fury is the “show me” race for Northern Passion. With her winter conditioning and her ability, there’s no reason why she should lose the race, which has scratched down to a field of seven with the absence of Kitty’s Got Class. Her odds may not be attractive considering her recent form. But if the public has soured on her and she floats up to 5-2 or 3-1 in favor of her stablemate Dene Court or the Star Shoot runner-up Casa Loma, then she may be worth a play. Northern Passion now has the innermost draw in the Fury, as a result of the scratch. The way the Woodbine Polytrack appeared to play on Saturday, the inside may not be the worst place to be today. Let’s not forget about her July 9 debut when she motored up the inside like a very seasoned runner.