TORONTO, ON – Trainer Josie Carroll’s star pupil Curlin’s Voyage appears ready to set sail for her biggest test to date in Saturday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser.
The Woodbine Oaks is a 1 1/8-mile synthetic route restricted to Canadian-foaled 3-year-old fillies. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on an 11-race card with a local post time of 6:28 PM Eastern.
Though limited to female runners, the Woodbine Oaks has produced several winners of the $1 million Queen’s Plate, the premiere event for Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds. A total of 37 fillies have won the Queen’s Plate since its inception in 1860.
Here is a look at the full field for the race:
1. Curlin’s Voyage 3/1 – Canada’s 2019 champion 2-year-old filly exits a key last-out event when she won the Fury Stakes over three whom she faces here. Though that came while sprinting, this daughter of two-time American Horse of the Year Curlin has a 4-2-1-0 record while routing and should love running this added distance.
“She’s pretty uncomplicated,” said Carroll, who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame this year. “She’s a very affectionate filly in the barn. She just loves attention and always has her head out looking for attention, and then when she gets on the racetrack, she’s all business and she just drags her riders around there.”
2. Pilot Episode 20/1 – The field’s lone maiden picked a tough spot for her first time routing and trying a synthetic surface. She recently fired a bullet best-of-6 5-furlong work in 1:00.80 over the Saratoga training track and attracted the services of Luis Contreras, who has won this race twice, including in 2017 with eventual Queen’s Plate victor Holy Helena.
3. Bayou Belle 20/1 – She broke her maiden last time out while making her fifth career start for trainer Kevin Attard, who has three stable representatives scheduled to enter the gate. The good news is that it came routing over this course and against several older fillies, but she needs to greatly improve upon the career-best 72 Beyer speed figure that she earned in victory.
4. November Fog 20/1 – She finished third in a pair of Ontario-bred stakes while routing over the local course at the end of 2019 but has failed to replicate that success in her first 2 starts this season. Her best chance of winning will likely be to use her early turn of foot to establish an uncontested pace, then try to hold them all off late.
5. Afleet Katherine 15/1 – The field’s second Attard trainee has only 2 starts to her name, but both were impressive off-the-pace rallies that resulted in narrow victories while sprinting 7 furlongs over the local lawn. Her first start routing comes on a foreign surface, but Attard fires at 19% both when his runners change from turf to synthetic and stretch out to two turns.
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6. Mizzen Beau 12/1 – She struggled in her stakes debut last time out, finishing fifth in the Fury behind three rivals whom she sees again here. That was her first time racing on synthetic, however, and she recently fired a bullet best-of-48 5-furlong work in 1 minute flat over the local main track, so perhaps she’s more accustomed to it a month later.
7. Merveilleux 4/1 – Attard’s third runner also appears (at least on paper) to be her trainer’s best shot at upsetting the favorite, thanks to a 5-2-2-0 record when turning twice over the local main track. She adds blinkers for the first time after she finished fourth (her lone off-the-board synthetic route effort) against open company sophomore fillies in the Selene Stakes (G3).
8. Lasting Union 5/2 – She was a dominating 12-length victor last time out against allowance rivals at Delaware Park, an effort that earned her a career-best 87 Beyer speed figure. If she takes to the synthetic main track in her debut over such a surface, the daughter of the 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags could be dangerous over this added distance.
9. Justleaveitalone 8/1 – She missed winning the Fury by a head, a feat all the more impressive considering she was a 65/1 maiden whose prior career best Beyer speed figure (67) was 20 points less than what she earned in the Fury. She broke her maiden over this course and distance on August 2, an effort strong enough that her connections supplemented her into this field.
10. Infinite Patience 6/1 – She won all 5 starts in 2019 by a combined 35 1/2 lengths while running exclusively over the Hastings dirt, then finished second to Curlin’s Voyage in the year-end Sovereign Award voting. She set the pace in the Fury before finishing third by just a length in her synthetic debut and has worked sharply over the course in preparation for this race.
“She’s pretty gutsy and she’s the type that’s going to show up, no matter what,” said trainer Lorne Richards, who will saddle her while she’s based at Woodbine. “She’s just that kind of horse. She looked great when she got here. I think she’s got to be better than she was last time out, just based on her having the chance to be here longer now. We’re hopeful.”