Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Whimsical Stakes is easily the best added-money field assembled thus far in the three-weekend old 2012 Woodbine season. Ten fillies and mares will line up in the six-furlong dash, which has been carded as the eighth race on the 10-race program. The favorite for the Whimsical is Canada’s reigning female sprint champion, Atlantic Hurricane. The Halo’s Image mare dominated the division in 2011, winning six of her eight attempts, including the Seaway, Ontario Fashion and Bessarabian Stakes. Trained by Stuart Simon, the Florida-bred is equally effective from just off the pace as she is from on the engine. The key to her success will be whether she’s ready to roll in her first start of the season against rivals that have already raced this season. One such filly is the Mark Casse trainee Roxy Gap, a four-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie. The Ontario-bred is in search of her first stakes score since last year’s Fury, in which she bested a very lightly-raced Marketing Mix by three-quarters of a length. She finished fourth in the Woodbine Oaks and second in the Ontario Damsel before heading to the sidelines. Casse brought her back to the races on March 14, when she was an even third in a five-furlong dash on the turf at Gulfstream Park. If she still has any of the ability she showed during her two-year-old campaign, she should show it in her second start off the long layoff. At her best, Roxy Gap can pounce and draw off in a hurry, usually before her prey knows what has happened. It’s just been a very long time since we’ve seen her in attack mode. It’s somewhat fitting that Sweet Cassiopeia drew the inside post. The Barb Minshall trainee has never seen a position higher than three in a Woodbine Polytrack event in her seven-race career. The inside draws haven’t seemed to bother the daughter of Five Star Day. She rounded out her three-year-old campaign with three straight open-length scores, including a pair at six furlongs. The Whimsical will be the chestnut’s first career stakes try. Another up-and-coming filly enters the Whimsical defending an even better local streak. Mark Casse trainee Rock the Moon has won four consecutive Woodbine tilts, her most recent on November 27 in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer/allowance in which she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 92. Since then, she has competed at Gulfstream Park on two occasions with just a third-place finish to show for it. The Malibu Moon chestnut has worked brilliantly since returning to Toronto, having posted two bullets at five furlongs in the last 18 days. She’s better suited to 6 ½ or 7 furlongs, but if a speed duel were to develop, a late run could garner the Kentucky-bred a major share of the purse.
Trainer Wayne Catalano is represented in the Whimsical by four-year-old Invisible Ink filly by Honey Chile, who has yet to win a black-type event but has been graded stakes placed on multiple occasions in the United States. She’s also stakes-placed at Woodbine, having finished second to Anne’s Beauty in the Duchess Stakes at seven furlongs. Consistency isn’t her strong suit. Most recently she forced the early issue in a seven-furlong Keeneland allowance but checked out after a half-mile and tired badly.
Hard to leave a Mike Doyle trainee off the ticket the way his stable is firing this month. He sends out Dancing Raven, who has put earned six-figure totals in each of her past two seasons. The late-runner will have the services of Emma-Jayne Wilson, who connected with a pair of longshots on Saturday’s Woodbine program. A winner of last year`s Ballade, Dancing Raven appears to be a cut below the best in the field, but if the event requires a late presence, there are worse directions in which to go.
Kitty in a Tizzy went from earning $128,417 in 2010 to banking just $7,913 through three starts in 2012. If her problems of last year are behind her, the James Bond trainee is an intriguing runner because she has had stakes success at Woodbine. The Tizow mare`s last victory came over the Toronto oval at seven furlongs. She followed up with runner-up finishes in the Duchess and Selene, which was captured by Biofuel. Kitty in a Tizzy spent the winter at Palm Meadows Training Centre.
It’s hard to look past Atlantic Hurricane if she’s anywhere close to her form of last year. If Sweet Cassiopeia provides any serious resistance in the early or middle stages it is conceivable that Atlantic Hurricane winds up vulnerable in the stretch. Rock the Moon and Roxy Gap are viable candidates to make late runs if there are pieces that need picking up.
Photo courtesy of Michael Burns/WEG