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Woodbine Oaks: Nipissing Fends Off Spring in the Air

Chiefswood Stable’s homebred Nipissing, with veteran Steven Bahen aboard, hauled down stablemate Original Script and fended off Spring in the Air in a thrilling three-horse finish to capture the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, Sunday at Woodbine.
 
At the wire of the mile and one-eighth classic for Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies, Nipissing had prevailed by three-quarters of a length over favoured Spring in the Air, in 1:50.34 over Woodbine’s Polytrack, with Original Script another three-quarters of a length back in third.
 
The race turned into a battle for survival down the lane, as Original Script, also owned and bred by Chiefswood, and jockey Jesse Campbell desperately tried to hang on to a lead they’d held from the outset, through fractions of 23.89, 48.49 and 1:13.01.
 
When the field turned for home, Original Script was still gamely in front by a length, passing the mile marker in 1:37.60.   But Nipissing, last year’s Princess Elizabeth winner, who had tracked the leaders in fourth and John Oxley’s Spring in the Air, last year’s champion two-year-old filly with jockey Joel Rosario, who had bided her time in last before making a sweeping move on the turn, were both now bearing down on the leader, eventually overtaking her approaching the wire.
 
For Chiefswood, it was the second big win for the stable on the Canadian racing scene.   Nine years ago, homebred Niigon, now deceased, took down Canada’s most famous race, the Queen’s Plate, in 2004.   Nipissing is a daughter of Niigon-Kiche and became the first Oaks winner since Avowal in 1982 to be sired by a Plate winner.  Avowal’s sire was 1975 Plate winner L’Enjoleur.
 
For Bahen, it was his second Oaks triumph, having won the 1996 edition with Silent Fleet.  For trainer Rachel Halden, it was her first Oaks triumph with her first Oaks starter.
 
“Last time (in the Selene) we were a little further back so I was hoping she’d break a little sharper, which she did today,” recalled Bahen, who has been aboard Nipissing in all six previous starts.  “I wanted to be three, four lengths off the pace, sit on the outside and give her a clean trip.  It worked out perfectly.  I heard her (Spring in the Air) coming, I said, ‘C’mon, wire’.  But she ran her eyeballs out and she galloped out strongly like she always does.  She’s a great horse.”
 
Added Halden, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield before going out on her own several years ago, “It feels great.  It just seems such a long time ago that she won the Princess Elizabeth and we started talking about this race.   You just hope she stays healthy and everything goes to plan and fortunately it did.  And here we are today.”
 
After a banner juvenile season which saw Nipissing go undefeated in four starts, winning the prestigious Princess Elizabeth and South Ocean Stakes, she began her three-year-old season with a sixth place finish to Emollient in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 6.  She then returned home to Woodbine and ran gamely in defeat, finishing second to Coffee Clique in the mile and one-sixteenth Selene on May 19.
 
Now the question is whether she’ll take on the boys in the famed Queen’s Plate, July 7, at one mile and one-quarter.    The Oaks was actually run slightly faster than the preceding race, the Plate Trial Stakes, won by Dynamic Sky….1:50.34 versus 1:50.59.
 
Nipissing earned $300,000 for the victory to push her career bankroll to $634,803.  As the 5-2 second choice, she paid $7.10, $3.40 and $2.50, combining with 7-5 choice Spring in the Air ($2.70, $2.40) for a $17.20 (7-6) exactor.  A 7-6-4 (Original Script, $3.70) triactor returned $79.40 while a $1 Superfecta [7-6-4-8 (Smartyfly)] was worth $75.45.
 
 
 
 

 

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