Strut the Course back to defend title in Canadian Stakes
September 09, 2016 10:43am
Strut the Course wins 2014 Classy 'n Smart
Photo: WEG/Michael Burns

John Unger's Strut the Course, a driving winner of the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes here last September, will be back to defend her title in the 1 1/8-mile turf event which is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In series.
Trained by Barb Minshall, the six-year-old Strut the Stage bay earned Sovereign Award honours in 2014 as champion older mare after winning four of eight starts including a first graded win in the Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes.  In 2015, she competed almost exclusively in graded events winning the Grade 2 Dance Smartly before doubling up in the Canadian. Only traffic trouble in the stretch run kept Strut the Course from hitting the board in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor when a rallying fourth, defeated just two lengths.
She arrives at the Canadian from a strong second-place effort in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly when unable to reel in a resurgent Lexie Lou.
"Turning for home I thought we had it. Maybe we let her (Lexie Lou) get too far away," said Minshall. "Her best races are just off the pace, not having to close from so far back. Lexie Lou got away, she's a very good filly, and we just couldn't catch her."
Strut the Course worked in company with Sovereign Award winning sprinter Stacked Deck on September 2, covering five furlongs on the Woodbine main in a swift :58.60.
"I wanted to make sure she was good and tight to run. She's been off a little bit because she got sick after her last race," said Minshall. "He's a very fast horse and he had her in the work a little bit, but she's not a sprinter and he is. You need a good horse to work her with, otherwise she'll work in a minute by herself for fun and I wanted to make sure she was good and ready."
Rafael Hernandez will take over from Luis Contreras in the Canadian as Strut the Course winds down what has been an exceptional career with 10 wins from 26 starts and more than $1.1-million in purse earnings.
"She's heading to the E.P. Taylor again after this and then to the November Breeding Stock sale at Keeneland," said Minshall. 
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Button Down missed by a desperate half-length in the 2015 Canadian for trainer Josie Carroll and owner Greenwood Lodge Farm In.
"She ran a good race last year but lost to a tough horse," acknowledged Carroll.
The five-year-old Oasis Dream bay, bred in Great Britain by Juddmonte Farms Ltd., enjoyed a sparkling 2015 campaign posting three wins and two seconds from seven starts including a score in the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs over a yielding turf.  She is nominated to both the Canadian and the Grade 1 Northern Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf marathon versus the boys.
"We're just trying to keep our options open and see where she fits the best," said Carroll. 
Although a two-time winner at nine furlongs, Button Down earned a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure with a solid fifth-place finish, defeated just two lengths, in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor over 1 1/4-miles on a Woodbine turf course rated as 'good'.
"It's tough to know what's ideal, she was only beat a length in the Flaming Page going a mile and a half," said Carroll of Button Down's prominent effort last season that garnered a 95 Beyer number. "She's a pretty versatile filly. At the end of the day, she's just a runner. 
"She's in good order and ready to run. She'll go a half mile on the turf on Sunday," continued Carroll. "She had a good work last week. We just have to figure out where to put her."
* * * * *
Midnight Miley, trained by Julia Carey for Little Red Feather Racing, arrives at the Canadian on a two-race win streak having captured the Grade 3 Ontario Matron, when routing, and the Grade 3 Seaway, when sprinting, over the Woodbine Tapeta.
The four-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute has raced five times on the turf and did pick up a win at Golden Gate on the green in 2015 when wiring a one-mile optional claiming field.  She'll breeze on the Woodbine turftomorrow to get reacquainted with the sod.
"We're going to breeze her tomorrow on the E.P. Taylor Turf. They have the dogs way out there, so we'll probably go a half from the half-mile pole and let her gallop out," said Carey.
Midnight Miley, at 27-1, opened up an insurmountable six-length lead in the Ontario Matron, a 1 1/16-mile route, and coasted home to win by four.  When turned back to seven furlongs in the Seaway, Midnight Miley against established a clear lead and held on to win by 3/4-lengths.
Her high cruising speed will be a weapon in a field laden with good closing types.
"I'm sure it will be a tough field but I don't know how much speed there is in there which could be to our advantage," said Carey. "She's doing very well right now and sometimes fillies when they're doing well can put a few races back to back. Hopefully we're not asking too much of her. We'll see.
The attractive Midnight Miley will certainly turn heads on a lucrative Saturday card that includes the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile and Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes.

"She's a big filly, not tall, but well built and strong. In my eyes, she's beautiful," smiled Carey.
With regular pilot Hernandez committed to Strut the Course, Midnight Miley will likely pick up a visiting American rider for the Canadian.
Trainer Wes Ward has nominated juvenile fillies Red Lodge and Con Te Partiro to both the Grade 1 Natalma, restricted to fillies, and the Grade 2 Summer, for open company, on Sunday, September 18. Both races are part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In series.
The pair worked in company this morning at Keeneland covering five furlongs in on the turf 1:02.
"We're trying to look to see if we’re going to run them both (in the Natalma), because it’s a Grade I, or maybe run one of them against the boys in the Summer Stakes," said Ward.
Red Lodge, a Midshipman chestnut, graduated on May 27 at Belmont Park, setting a track record in the process for five furlongs on the turf, and then traveled to Ascot where she finished off-the-board in the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes on June 16. Most recently, she captured the Colleen Stakes over 5 1/2-furlongs on the Monmouth Park turf.
"She came back (from Ascot) good and won a stake on the grass at Monmouth that kind of vindicated the loss over there," said Ward. "She probably would have run a little better (at Ascot), but she broke the track record at Belmont and from there, we shipped back to Kentucky and up to Indiana and flew over (to England) and the race was only 2 ½ weeks later.
"That’s a lot to ask of a two-year-old filly," continued Ward. "She still ran credible but not nearly as good as she did when she broke her maiden and not nearly as good as when she won at Monmouth. But now we’ve had good spacing and it looks like she’s going to be right on target for the Natalma."
Con Te Partiro, a dark bay daughter of Scat Daddy, has won two of three starts including a runaway 5 3/4-length score last time out in the Bolton Landing Stakes, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint on the Saratoga turf.
"She ran a tremendous race at Saratoga. Now it’s just a question of if we think we can stretch out a bit further and if she can carry that speed on. It was a nice work today against a very tough filly, both of them, it was tough to separate them," said Ward.
Ward is still undecided on which Woodbine event his fillies will line up in next weekend.
"Right now, visually, both of them were nearly equal. If I had to decide which one was better today I’d say Red Lodge although David Flores was up on Red Lodge and the exercise boy was on the other horse," said Ward. "David is lighter than the exercise boy and David has won over 40 G1s so that as well comes into play, it’s a little bit of an advantage there to the rider standpoint. I’d say both of them had a very nice work."

Erica Wiebe, one of Canada's greatest female wrestlers, will be the drawmaster for the Ricoh Woodbine Mile which will take place this Wednesday, September 14, at Woodbine's east-end tent.
She will assist in determining the post positions and speak briefly of her participation in the sport at the noonmedia conference.
Wiebe is the reigning Olympic champion in women’s 75 KG freestyle, winning gold at the 2016 Rio Games. She is an active ambassador for Fast & Female, Right to Play & KidSport Calgary. 
The Ricoh Woodbine Mile is slated for Saturday, September 17.

Source: Woodbine Communications Office


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