Photo: WEG/Michael Burns Photography
Lexie Lou, ridden by Patrick Husbands, took over turning for home in Sunday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, and drew off through the stretch to win the classic for Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies by four and one-half lengths on Sunday.
The mile and one-eighth test drew nine hopefuls and appeared an evenly-matched group, with Paladin Bay the mild 2-1 post-time favourite.
But second choice Lexie Lou, making just her second start for new owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse, proved pounds the best, getting the distance in 1:49.77, a full second faster than Queen’s Plate favourite We Miss Artie took to win the Plate Trial a race earlier.
Stablemate and pacesetter Wild Catomine was second, with Llanarmon third. Favoured Paladin Bay never really fired and finished fourth, eight and one-half lengths behind the winner.
For Husbands, it was his third win in the Oaks on a day when he was presented with the Avelino Gomez Award for career contributions to Canadian thoroughbred racing. Husbands and Casse have now teamed to win three Oaks, following Kimchi in 2006 and champion Sealy Hill in 2007.
Barber had purchased Lexie Lou from owner-trainer John Ross after her seasonal debut, a fourth place finish to Zensational Bunny in the six furlong Star Shoot on April 19. The daughter of Sligo Bay-Oneexcessivenite next finished a closing third, a half-length behind Wild Catomine in the seven furlong Fury on May 10, prior to her breakout performance on Sunday.
“Mr. Barber has a passion for horse racing and watches every race from North America to Europe,” said assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan. “He’s always on the look out for up-and-coming horses and Lexie Lou has been on everyone’s radar since her juvenile campaign. He put his interest out there and Mr. Ross agreed.”
Casse took the blinkers off her for the Oaks, a move that can sometimes backfire in major races, but according to Husbands, it made all the difference.
After stalking Wild Catomine through fractions of :23.25, :47.98 and 1:12.25, Husbands pulled the trigger on his filly turning for home, and after the mile was reached in 1:37.15, left her rivals to battle for the minor spoils.
“When Mark bought this horse, she had run with blinkers. So when I worked her, I said she doesn’t need blinkers. So last time she never relaxed (racing with blinkers on). Today, no blinkers. We worked her twice since the last race without blinkers, no problem. In the post parade, she was relaxed.
“I’ve won a lot of races for Mark but he’ll have to decide where she should go next (either the $1 million Queen’s Plate on July 6 or the second leg of the filly Triple Tiara, the $250,000 Bison City Stakes on July 13).
Last year, Lexie Lou enjoyed a banner season, winning three of eight, including two stakes, while earning $310,244. She also battled rival Paladin Bay throughout the year, winning two of six head-to-head contests. But she saved her best for Canada’s richest race for Canadian-bred fillies on Sunday at Woodbine.
“I had a great trip,” said jockey Gary Boulanger, aboard runner-up Wild Catomine. “She didn’t break that sharp but going a mile and an eighth, I wasn’t too concerned. She did everything I could ask her to do. Lexie Lou was always there on me. Going two turns for the first time, she did more than exceptionally well. I’m very proud of her.”
“It was good, but it was a little too far at the end,” said rider Gerry Olguin, about Paladin Bay. “We took a good run at her, like we always do, but Lexie Lou found another gear there, she just took off again. I thought I was going to be second. It looks like the last sixteenth of a mile was a little too far for her. She got tired at the end.”
Lexie Lou earned $300,000 for the win, and paid $8.50, $4.50 and $3.40, teaming with Wild Catomine ($7, $5.50) for a $46.50 (8-6) exactor. An 8-6-2 (Llanarmon, $5) triactor was worth $324.40 while a $1 Superfecta [8-6-2-1 (Paladin Bay)] came back $460.