Pin Oak Stables homebred Don’t Leave Me split rivals in the stretch run and surged to an impressive score in Saturday’s Grade 3 $159,700 Ontario Colleen Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Malcolm Pierce, the Lemon Drop Kid grey avenged a troubled last out trip, when fourth under Javier Castellano in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs, with a powerful turn of foot to capture Saturday’s grassy one-turn mile for sophomore fillies.
Multiple stakes winner London Tower was sent to the lead by Gary Boulanger in the Ontario Colleen setting reasonable splits of :24.34 and :48.55 with Green Doctor and Miss Mandate stalking her early foot. Don’t Leave Me, expertly ridden by Eurico Rosa da Silva, was kept closer to the pace than usual advancing to fourth position through the turn as London Tower and Green Doctor turned for home together in the front-end battle.
Having saved ground throughout, da Silva angled Don’t Leave Me off the rail for the stretch run bursting between London Tower and Green Doctor en route to an impressive 2 1/2-length victory. London Tower stayed on strong for place, two-lengths in front of the rallying City Wells. Don’t Leave Me covered a mile over an E.P. Taylor Turf Course rated as ‘Firm’ in 1:35.70.
Mississippi Delta, the 2-1 mutuel favourite, was eased at the top of the lane and crossed the wire before walking off.
Da Silva, back aboard the late running Don’t Leave Me for the first time since a narrow head loss in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes, appreciated being a little closer to the action on Saturday.
“I asked Malcolm if I could put her a little bit closer to the pace today. Last time (in the Selene), I think I gave her a little too much to do and he said, ‘Go on out there and ride the race,'” said da Silva.
Don’t Leave Me, a splendid winner of the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park in March, was keen to get involved in the Ontario Colleen.
“In the beginning, she was really sharp and I chirped on her and gave just a little tap on her shoulder and she wanted to take off,” grinned da Silva. “I said, ‘Woah babe, relax’ and she did relax. She ran awesome.”
Pierce was pleased with the effort of the improving grey.
“We gave her plenty of time and aimed her for this race since the race at Churchill,” said Pierce. “It looks like it was the right move. We just have to figure out where to go next.”
Da Silva believes the filly has plenty of options going forward.
“My filly has a long stride and I think she’d like to go a little bit further,” he said.
The Kentucky-bred Don’t Leave Me, out of See How She Runs, banked $90,000 in victory while improving her record to 4-1-0 from seven starts.
She paid $8.80, $4.60 and $3.40, combining with London Tower ($4.60, $3.50) for a $41.90 (1-2) exactor. A 1-2-7 triactor (City Wells, $2.90 to show) was worth $168, while a $1 Superfecta [1-2-7-6 (Her Majesty’s Flag)] came back $1102.50.