Thanks to a soft turf course at a stormy Woodbine, Sunday’s $226,192 Nearctic (G2) turned into more of a war of attrition than a typical six-furlong sprint. Handling the conditions best was the 40-1 longest shot on the board, Field of Courage, who upstaged British shipper Cotai Glory and 9-5 favorite White Flag.
Trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Luis Contreras, Field of Courage had never contested a graded stakes, had gone unplaced in his two prior turf attempts, RNA’d for $19,000 at Keeneland last November, and had been risked for a $40,000 tag in his comeback on the Tapeta. The son of Marchfield was coming off his best stakes performance, a second to Melmich in the August 30 Elgin, but even so, a 1 1/16-mile stakes on the synthetic track didn’t stand out against a field with high-caliber turf sprint form.
Better-fancied stablemate Conquest Tsunami vied with Dowse’s Beach through a swift opening quarter in :22.88, as Cotai Glory was tucked just behind them in midpack, and White Flag was in a poor tactical position in last. Field of Courage, always close up on the outside, improved to join the leaders at the half-mile mark in :45.93, and you can hear the surprise in track announcer Robert Geller’s voice when the longshot struck the front in upper stretch.
Ikerrin Road loomed briefly before flattening, Cotai Glory bravely tried to quicken, White Flag was gallant in gaining from the rear, yet none could touch Field of Courage. Crossing the wire with 1 3/4 lengths to spare, the winner sluiced in 1:12.07 and sparked an $82.70 win mutuel.
Cotai Glory was best of the rest, prompting thoughts of what might have been on a quicker surface. Although White Flag’s winning skein was snapped, his third-place was full of merit in the circumstances, and the Christophe Clement pupil remains one to follow in this division. Ikerrin Road checked in fourth, followed by Conquest Tsunami, Dowse’s Beach, Yorkton, and a tailed-off Circle of Friends.
Campaigned by Quintessential Racing Florida, Field of Courage has earned $429,693 from a record of 17-6-2-1. The Ontario-bred was well regarded enough to be on the Canadian classic trail at three, his best effort being a close third to Breaking Lucky and Shaman Ghost in the 2015 Prince of Wales on the Fort Erie dirt. After only two appearances in 2016, the gelding resumed with a front-running score in the aforementioned claimer on April 30. He eventually worked his way back into stakes company when a closing fourth in the restricted Shepperton prior to the Elgin.
Field of Courage was bred by Cavendish Investing Ltd. and purchased for $66,367 as an Ontario September yearling. He is a half-brother to Elgin winners Good Better Best and Mesa Cielo as well as to stakes-placed fillies Missy Crissy and More Miss Crissy, all out of the multiple stakes-winning and Grade 3-placed Miss Crissy, by Bold N’ Flashy.
Another upset, albeit a much milder one, ensued in the $118,632 Ontario Derby (G3) as 9-1 Tiz a Slam defeated 4-5 favorite Holy Helena. Reversing the Queen’s Plate order of finish, where Tiz a Slam was runner-up to Holy Helena, the Roger Attfield trainee secured a good outside stalking position, capitalized on first run, and opened up by 3 1/4 lengths.
By completing 1 1/8 miles on the Tapeta in 1:51.57, Tiz a Slam was part of a banner day for jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva. Capping his four wins on the card was the 42-1 shocker by Bullards Alley in the Canadian International (G1).
Holy Helena outfought 62-1 Guy Caballero for second. Senior Investment, who was stuck on the rail turning for home and had to steer around horses in the stretch, made late headway for fourth.
A Chiefswood Stable homebred, Tiz a Slam is by Tiznow and out of the Grand Slam mare Flaming Rose, a winning half-sister to Grade 2 vixen Essential Edge. This is the immediate family of last Sunday’s off-the-turf Bourbon (G3) hero Flameaway, and further back, the great Salsabil.
Tiz a Slam was scoring his first stakes win since last fall’s Cup and Saucer on the turf. Also second in the Wando, fourth in the Plate Trial, and fifth in a failed dirt experiment in the Prince of Wales, he was exiting a fourth in the grassy Centaur at Indiana Grand. His graded breakthrough advanced his scorecard to 11-4-2-0, $469,147.