TORONTO, ON — Coming off of an impressive maiden victory at Belmont on May 12, Holy Helena rallied from just off the pace for a going-away length victory in Sunday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks presented by Budweiser.
Trained by Jimmy Jerkens for Stronach Stable, Holy Helena had jockey Luis Contreras in the irons for the first time under racing conditions.
Contreras had become acquainted with Holy Helena when he breezed the filly over the Tapeta surface here on June 6.
“I got a nice trip,” said Contreras. “The filly helped me a lot the whole way. I was nice and comfortable sitting outside, and then she gave me everything.”
Mythical Mission, a homebred racing for Sam-Son Farm and trainer Malcolm Pierce, also came from just off the front runners and had assumed the lead at the 1/8 pole before failing to match the winner’s kick.
“It was a huge effort,” said Pierce. “She couldn’t have done anything better but win.
“She ran her eyeballs out today. We just got outrun the last few jumps. No excuses. We ran our race.”
Inflexibility, invading from Saratoga for trainer Chad Brown, was sent off as the 5-2 favorite under Joel Rosario but failed to muster a sufficient rally after racing on the inside. She settled for a third-place finish, 6 lengths behind the runner-up.
“The trip was good,” said Rosario. “She broke well and was up a little close, but she wanted to be there. It was fine and she was comfortable, but it felt like it took her a little bit of time to find the new surface. She’s a very nice filly.”
Enstone, who had stalked the pace four wide before moving to take over from front-running Stallion Heiress running into the far turn, gave way in the drive to finish fourth, just a head behind Inflexibility, the 7-2 second choice.
Stallion Heiress was timed in :23.60 and :47.03 while pressed by Miss Adele.
Enstone was in front through 6 furlongs in 1:12.18 before Mythical Mission and Holy Helena moved in tandem from mid-pack and took control of the race in mid-stretch.
Mythical Mission reached the mile marker in 1:37.18. The final time was 1:50.18.
Completing the order of finish were Cindervella, Ellan Vannin, Financial Recovery, Gertie T, Ghostly Presence, Inspired Vow, Stallion Heiress, and Miss Adele.
Financial Recovery was the 5-1 third choice under Mike Smith, who had conducted an autograph session earlier Sunday afternoon and was coming off of a spectacular five-stakes win day at Belmont Park.
Holy Helena is a daughter of Ghostzapper out of the Holy Bull mare, Holy Grace, and was led into the stakes winner’s circle by owner Frank Stronach.
“She has beautiful breeding,” said Stronach. “The bottom side, it’s a great family.”
Holy Helena returned $14.00, $7.10, and $4.90. Mythical Mission brought back $8 and $4.60, while Inflexibility paid $3.60 to show.
Earlier in the card, Guy Caballero, a 20-1 longshot, rallied from last place in the field of six to score by a 1/2-length in the $125,000 Plate Trial Stakes.
Ridden by Rafael Hernandez and trained by Catherine Day Phillips for owner-breeders Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, Guy Caballero recorded his first stakes win in the 1 1/8 mile Plate Trial, a major stepping-stone to the 1 1/4 mile Queen’s Plate on July 2.
“I got a good trip,” said Hernandez. “That’s what Catherine and I were talking about; just get a good break and relax the horse. Just put him clear in the turn and make sure he got a clear trip and give it everything he had in the stretch. He sure showed up today.”
Finishing behind Guy Caballero were the Mark Casse-trained pair of King and His Court and State of Honor.
King and His Court had stalked the pace on the inside from fourth under regular rider Gary Boulanger and rallied up the rail to edge out State of Honor for second money by a neck.
“He looked like he was lumbering today,” said Casse. “Some days, he comes with a big kick, and today, he was lumbering.”
State of Honor, who had been keeping company with the best 3-year-olds in the U.S. this year, was coming into the Plate Trial off of a 19th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Sent off as the even-money favorite, State of Honor assumed his expected position on the front end and maintained a short lead through steady fractions of :24.01, :48.66, and 1:12.55.
Holding on through a mile in 1:37.89, State of Honor just failed to stay out the final furlong under jockey Patrick Husbands.
“State of Honor ran big because he missed a little time after the Derby,” said Casse. “I told the Conrads (owner/breeders Manfred and Penny Conrad) that this race should help him. There’s still the question if he can go a mile and a 1/4.”
Tiz a Slam, trained by Roger Attfield and sent off as the 5-2 second choice, was within striking range throughout but appeared to stall slightly around the final turn before finishing smartly to be beaten just 1 3/4-lengths in fourth. Avie’s Mesa and Expedition completed the order of finish.
The final time was 1:51.32.
Guy Caballero made his second start of the season in the Plate Trial after finishing second in an allowance race in his 7-furlong opener.
“He was ready to run, but he certainly wasn’t at his best in his first race,” said Day Phillips. “He’d trained well since, and he had five weeks between his last race and this race, but he hadn’t run recently against this type of horses. I was confident that he’d run a good race, but I wasn’t sure how he would stack up.”
Guy Caballero returned $42.60, $13.60, and $6. King and His Court brought back $5.10 and $3.10, while State of Honor paid $2.60 to show.