Old Persian (1-1), who impressed in taking the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March, brings his sizable turf talents to Woodbine Racetrack for Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes.
Owned by Godolphin and trained by Charlie Appleby, Old Persian, a four-year-old son of Dubawi, boasts a record of 8-1-2 from 15 starts, along with more than $4 million in purse earnings.
The bay colt was at the top of his game in Dubai earlier this year, winning a pair of 1 ½-mile turf events, the aforementioned Dubai Sheema Classic on March 30, and the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold three weeks earlier.
||Old Persian (GB)
||Tiz a Slam
"I think he has come of age and tonight was his way of telling us so," said Appleby in the aftermath of the Classic. "He's the son of Dubawi and he was out to show this as well. I liked the way he took full advantage of the gap when he got it. After that, there was no catching him. This is one of the most fantastic runs that he has come up with and we couldn't have asked anything more from him."
Now, the British-bred will go after another high profile victory, this time in the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer Turf, a key event on the road to the Grade 1 $800,000 Pattison Canadian International (October 12, at Woodbine).
Head lass Sophie Chretien flew to Toronto with Old Persian, who has taken well to his new surroundings.
"The trip was perfect," said Chretien. "It was a good flight, he was relaxed, and everything went fine on that side. He settled in very nicely, and he went on the track on Monday and Tuesday, just to get used to the place. So far, so good. He seems quite happy with himself."
Making his debut at Newmarket in August 2017, resulting in a third-place finish, Old Persian went on to record back-to-back wins, at Chelmsford and Newmarket, respectively. It was one of three occasions that Old Persian notched consecutive scores.
Most recently, he finished third in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin over a mile and a half at Hoppegarten, Germany, on August 11.
Appleby commented: "A bit more pace in the race would definitely have helped Old Persian today. He has run steadily and travelled well into the race but just got found out for a bit of toe at the finish. However, it was his first run for a couple of months and it was a nice performance."
His connections will be hoping for a repeat of his Dubai experiences when he makes his first appearance on Canadian turf.
"It's a long straight to finish, and that will suit him," said Chretien. "Here in Canada, I think it will suit his style of running. He does like some pace. It's a big, galloping track. I think he will like that. In his last race in Germany, I was not there, but I watched it on TV after. That day - he has some turn of foot, don't get me wrong - but you need some pace for that. He probably would not have beaten the winner, but he could have run a bit better in a way, I think."
As his form suggests, the connections of Northern Dancer starters will no doubt need to keep an eye on Old Persian on Saturday.
His Godolphin team always does the same with the handsome colt when they're around his stall.
"You have to watch him," noted Chretien. "He's not mean or anything, but he's a colt, and a bit of a boy. You have to be careful."
Cooler Mike (20-1), trained and co-owned by Nick Nosowenko, sports a record of 4-4-4 from 16 starts. The four-year-old son of Giant Gizmo finished third in last year's Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes (first and second legs of the Canadian Triple Crown). He comes into the Northern Dancer off a win the Halton Stakes on August 28 at Woodbine.
A five-year-old son of Kitten's Joy, Kentucky-bred Focus Group will look for a repeat of his performance in this year's edition of the Grade 2 Pan American, contested at Gulfstream Park on March 30. The dark bay, trained by Chad Brown, eked out a nose victory in the 1 1/2-mile turf event. He sports a 5-0-3 mark from 15 career races.
Sierra Farm's Nessy (8-1), a six-year-old gelded son of Flower Alley, fashions a record of 4-6-8 from 31 starts. The Ian Wilkes trainee was third to Woodbine-based Tiz a Slam in the Grade 3 Louisville Stakes on May 18 at Churchill Downs. His most recent win came on April 20 at Keeneland, in a 1 1/8-mile turf race.
Ultra-consistent Sir Sahib (12-1), a Stronach Stables' homebred, has 10 top-three finishes from 13 starts, including two wins. After winning an allowance race to launch his 2019 campaign, the four-year-old son of Fort Larned finished third in the Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes and second in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes, all run at Woodbine.
Tiz a Slam (3-1), who finished sixth in last year's Northern Dancer, rolls into this year's running of the Grade 1 event on a three-race win streak. Trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, and bred in Ontario by owner Chiefswood Stable, the five-year-old son of Tiznow took the Grade 3 Louisville on May 18, the Grade 3 Singspiel on June 22, and the Grade 2 Nijinsky on July 28.
The Northern Dancer Turf is slated as race 10 on Saturday's 12-race card, following the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Grade 1). First post is 1:05 p.m.
NYRA partners with Woodbine for Cross Country Pick 5
The New York Racing Association will host a Cross Country Pick 5 on Saturday featuring racing action from Belmont Park and Woodbine Racetrack in Etobicoke, Ontario.
A special all-turf edition of the Cross Country Pick 5 features the $200,000 Pebbles for sophomore fillies from Belmont as well as three graded turf stakes from the lucrative Ricoh Woodbine Mile card, including the 23rd renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile along with the Grade 1, $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf and the Grade 2, $250,000 Canadian presented by the Japan Racing Association.
The action kicks off in Race 7 [4:30 p.m. Eastern] at Woodbine with a talented field of seven assembled for the nine-furlong Canadian led by $1.3 million earner Holy Helena. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Holy Helena is a four-time graded stakes winner on turf, including a last-out score in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at Woodbine. Her main competition includes Competitionofideas, a Grade 1 winner trained by Chad Brown, who arrives at the Canadian from a rallying third in the Grade 1 Beverly D.
The Woodbine Mile, featuring a field of 11, marks the second leg in Race 8 at 5:42 p.m. Gary Barber and Southern Equine Stable's Got Stormy, who became the first filly to win the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave last out at Saratoga Race Course, headlines the one-turn mile. Trained by Mark Casse, Got Stormy, wheeled back a week after her victory in the De La Rose, covered one mile over the firm inner turf in a track record 1:32 flat in her Fourstardave coup. Steep opposition comes in the form of Godolphin's Lucullan, who has won two straight, including a last-out win in the Lure, following a one-year layoff for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
- Leg A: Woodbine, Race 7 - Grade 2 Canadian (4:30 pm)
- Leg B: Woodbine, Race 9 - Grade 1 Woodbine Mile (5:42 pm)
- Leg C: Belmont Park, Race 10 - $200,000 Pebbles (5:57 pm)
- Leg D: Woodbine, Race 10 - Grade 1 Northern Dancer (6:17 pm)
- Leg E: Belmont Park, Race 11 - (6:30 pm)
Racing action switches to Belmont for the third leg, the 27th running of the $200,000 Pebbles going one mile on the Widener turf in Race 10 at 5:57 p.m. Brown will saddle a pair of formidable contenders, led by multiple Grade 3-winner Seek and Destroy and the multiple graded-stakes placed Blowout.
The penultimate leg returns to Woodbine for the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer Turf in Race 10 at 6:17 p.m., which attracted a field of six led by $4.2 million earner Old Persian. Trained by Charles Appleby for Godolphin, the 4-year-old Dubawi colt boasts eighth career wins including a 1 1/2-length score in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March. Woodbine-based Tiz a Slam represents locals hopes, entering the event on a three-race win streak all in graded company.
Saturday's nightcap at Belmont [Race 11, 6:30 p.m.], a six-furlong claiming sprint on the inner turf featuring 11 contestants, and three main-track only entrants, closes out the challenging sequence. Mike's Girl, a two-length maiden winner at Saratoga on August 28, faces winners for the first time for trainer Danny Gargan. Andretta, who boasts a record of 1-5-1 from 10 starts, is offered for a tag for only the second time for the high-percentage combination of trainer H. James Bond and jockey Junior Alvarado.
The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. There will be a mandatory payout of the entire pool.