Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. piloted both winners of Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races at Woodbine, but one was a lot easier than the other. While Decorated Invader was in a league of his own in the $189,103 Summer (G1), the filly Abscond had to call on all of her battling qualities to prevail in a Natalma (G1) photo. Thus Decorated Invader is likely to attract more backers going into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) than Abscond in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
West Point Thoroughbreds, William T. Freeman and William Sandbrook’s Decorated Invader was making his stakes debut in the wake of a terrific maiden win at Saratoga, and accordingly ranked as the 2-1 second choice. The Christophe Clement pupil wasn’t quick into stride as he and Irish shipper Vitalogy bumped out of the gate, but it was soon clear that Ortiz had a handful of horse.
Up front, Keep on Truckin flashed speed in the opening strides before suddenly dropping back. It was the 109-1 Cadet Connelly who controlled the tempo through fractions of :24.26, :48.43, and 1:13.08 on a course labeled yielding. Mystic Lancelot, the 2-1 favorite, chased before fading, possibly affected by hitting the gate at the start.
Cadet Connelly, in defiance of his exorbitant odds, was not stopping down the stretch. But Decorated Invader was on the march, and once Ortiz got him in gear, the son of Declaration of War put his rivals away handily. Opening up by 1 3/4 lengths, Decorated Invader clocked the mile in 1:36.34.
Vitalogy, who had to angle around the winner for room, finished well in third and just failed to catch runner-up Cadet Connelly by a head. With a clearer passage, Vitalogy arguably would have taken second. Proven Strategies was another head away in fourth, followed by Pleasecallmeback, Talking, Cucina, Zoological, Mystic Lancelot, and Keep on Truckin. Secret Stash was scratched in favor of the Natalma.
Decorated Invader advanced his record to 3-2-1-0, $180,375. The bay showed promise in his Spa debut, rallying late for second to Field Pass, who subsequently placed second in the With Anticipation (G3). Decorated Invader learned from that experience to win handsomely in his second try, and the Summer marked another step forward.
“We were just looking for him to relax in the first part of the race and then let him run in the end,” Ortiz told Woodbine publicity. “We know he can run so we just want to relax him and teach him the first part.
“He’s only had three races so I think he’s getting better and better. Today, I really liked the way he did it. He was floating in a little bit in the stretch – he always does – but hopefully he learns and if he just keeps a little more straight in the stretch that would be great. He keeps learning.”
Assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul was pleased with the performance.
“I know he broke a touch poorly but with the rain we had and everything, I was pretty comfortable he was moving well and was happy where he was,” Lorieul said. “We were just very confident with our ride. He was just biding his time, and he showed up today.
“We talked about it (the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) beforehand. It would be the obvious next target for him. Today was the big test, and he completed it so we’re very happy for the partnership of West Point.”
Bred by Redmon Farm in Kentucky, Decorated Invader brought $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. His half-sister, stakes winner Jubliant Girl, has produced French stakes scorer Native American. Decorated Invader’s dam, the winning Arch mare Gamely Girl, descends from the family of noted sire Stormy Atlantic (responsible for Saturday’s Woodbine Mile [G1] upsetter El Tormenta). Further back, this is the *Rough Shod II tribe whose descendants include Nureyev and Sadler’s Wells.
Unlike Decorated Invader, Abscond was coming off a loss at Saratoga, and the Eddie Kenneally juvenile therefore found herself overlooked at 9-1 in the $188,124 Natalma. But that loss was a second behind Wesley Ward’s classy Kimari in the 5 1/2-furlong Bolton Landing, and Abscond was eligible to prosper on the stretch-out.
British shipper Walk in Marrakesh used her customary early speed to lead, pressed by Abscond through splits of :23.99 and :48.24. Walk in Marrakesh established more breathing room at the six-furlong mark in 1:12.56, but Abscond came right back at her in the stretch. Fair Maiden, the 3-5 favorite, loomed as if about to pass them both, only to hang and wander about on the outside.
Walk in Marrakesh fought bravely every step of the way, and Abscond matched her tenacity as they crossed the wire as one in 1:36.51. The photo finish revealed that Abscond got her nose down when it counted. Fair Maiden was a neck away in third.
Diamond Sparkles snatched fourth in her North American premiere for Mark Casse, a nose ahead of stablemate Secret Stash who encountered trouble on the turn. (Casse’s other entrant, Coach Lori, was scratched.) Rounding out the order of finish were Saratoga Vision and Runway Dreamer.
“I’m really impressed with her,” assistant trainer Kelly Wheeler said of Abscond. “She’s done everything right since she broke her maiden (in her debut at Ellis Park). Really, we’ve asked a lot of her shipping her up to Saratoga – she handled that great. So we shipped her up here, it looked like a good spot, and she came through.”
“(Wheeler) told me she’s a nice filly,” Ortiz said. “She probably needed a little more ground last time.
“She was acting really good. She broke out of there, and she broke sharp and just stayed in the middle of the turf course, and she was relaxed. She was going relaxed in the middle of the track so I left her there. I didn’t fight too much with her.
“And then by the time I start saving some ground in the turn and when I asked her to go, she’s a fighter. She fought with the outside horse (Fair Maiden) and came back on the inside (Walk in Marrakesh). She fought back and she put a head in front in the last couple of jumps. Everything worked out good for us.
“I knew it was really close, but I knew she won because I put the head in front in the last jump. It’s always a challenge when you’re at the wire in that position.”
Campaigned by Apogee Bloodstock and Mike Anderson Racing, Abscond paid $21 while boosting her bankroll to $162,875 from a 3-2-1-0 line. The daughter of Blame has made three tours of the sales ring, selling for $35,000 as a Keeneland November weanling and $90,000 as a September yearling, but RNA’ing for only $30,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic in May.
Abscond’s pedigree is better than that sales summary implies. She’s out of the winning Grand Slam mare Solitary Life, who is a half-sister to four stakes scorers including South African sprint star Overarching (dam of Group 1 winner Lady of the House) and Grade 3 hero Temeraine. Solitary Life is also a half to the dam of multiple Grade 2 vixen Cambodia.
Wheeler left the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf decision to the connections.
“I guess it’s up to Eddie and the owner. She’ll tell us, how she comes out of the race. She’ll ship back to Kentucky and we’ll go from there.”
Breeders’ Cup implications of a different sort were on display in the inaugural $80,819 Ontario Racing S., where even-money favorite Old Chestnut furthered his candidacy for the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2). Trained by Casse and piloted by Tyler Gaffalione, the Live Oak Plantation homebred led at every call en route to a 3 3/4-length tally in :56.85 on a “good” course.
“He has so much power,”Gaffalione said. “He’s a very kind horse, very smart. He shot right out, and took care of business.”
Casse commented that he considered the Summer before opting to keep the son of Speightstown and Grade 1 winner Pool Land sprinting after a course-and-distance maiden win.
“I thought about it for a little bit, and then thought maybe go here and then go to Keeneland (for the Indian Summer, a “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Turf Sprint). We won it (the Indian Summer) last year with Strike Silver. That’s what kind of swayed my decision to come here. We’d go here, and then hopefully with a good performance there, he’d go to the Breeders’ Cup.”
The companion stakes for two-year-old fillies, the inaugural $77,208 Woodbine Cares, witnessed a virtual match race between the 4-1 Fast Scene and 9-5 favorite Bayerly Seen. Co-owned by breeder Three Chimneys Farm and Blazing Meadows Farm, Fast Scene vied with Bayerly Seen until the latter executed a tactical retreat. Fast Scene spurted clear turning for home, but Bayerly Seen peeled off the fence, came around to re-engage the leader, and put her head in front. Under Rafael Hernandez, Fast Scene responded in kind and bravely regained the advantage by a head in :56.96.
From the first crop of Fast Anna, Fast Scene is based at Presque Isle Downs with trainer Timothy Hamm. She had won her first two starts on Woodbine’s Tapeta, including the My Dear S., but regressed to fourth behind Fair Maiden in the Catch a Glimpse on soft turf. Turning back in trip, and finding better ground, helped establish her turf proficiency.