TORONTO, ON – Three Diamonds Farm’s Hembree, claimed for $50,000 back in April, rewarded his connections with a huge score in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine.
Breaking from post 4 at 9/1 odds under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Hembree settled into midpack down the backstretch while Yorkton posted opening fractions of :22.31 and :45.18. Forced to run six-wide off of the far turn while still over 3 lengths back, Hembree put forth a determined rally toward the front. Under a drive the length of the stretch, Hembree outrallied Yorkton and his Mike Maker stablemate Hemp Hemp Hurray to win by a neck and a nose in a final time of 1:08.95 for the 6-furlong sprint over the good turf course.
“I got a good trip,” said Ortiz, Jr. “(Assistant trainer Nolan Ramsey) told me that there was going to be some pace in front of me, so don’t panic, just let him be comfortable. When I tipped him out in the stretch, he appreciated the long stretch because he was coming.”
Slightly more than a length behind the top trio came Singandcryindubai, while Bushrod took fifth over Kitten’s Cat (by a head), Holding Gold (by a nose), and Ikerrin Road (by a head). The 8/5 favorite Lady Alexandra sat within a length of the early leader but seemed to hit a wall nearing the end of the far turn and weakened to ninth. Conquest Panthera and Sweet Little Man completed the order of finish.
Hembree’s win was his second straight following a 7-furlong allowance score at Kentucky Downs on September 13 and improved his overall record 21-5-7-4. The 4-year-old son of Proud Citizen, whose record since being claimed stands at 5-3-0-1, has earned now $450,426.
“I really like the horse,” Ramsey said. “Hemp Hemp Hurray may be a personal favorite, but this horse is all class, does everything right, and just makes my job very easy, so no surprise today. He handles everything and is all class, so no surprises. Probably at the 1/4 pole, Hemp Hemp Hurray really looked like the horse to beat to me, but Irad gave Hembree a great trip, had him on the outside, and closed strong, so it was an exciting finish and I’m happy with the result.”
Hembree returned $20 to win, $8.80 to place, and $6.20 to show. Yorkton brought back $7.80 to place and $6.50 to show, while Hemp Hemp Hurray paid $8.30 to show.