Gamble’s Ghost heads an extremely competitive 61st edition of the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, Sunday at Woodbine.
The filly classic, which attracted 10 Canadian-foaled three-year-old fillies carrying 121 pounds over one mile and one-eighth on the Tapeta, will go postward at 6:12 p.m. and will be televised live on TSN, as part of a one hour special from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET. The winner receives $300,000.
In addition, the $150,000 Plate Trial (at 5:40 p.m.), also at one and one-eighth miles on Tapeta, will also be part of the telecast and features the top three Queen’s Plate Winterbook choices Shakhimat, Amis Gizmo and Battery. Canada’s most famous horse race, The Queen’s Plate, is scheduled for Sunday, July 3.
Ivan Dalos homebred Gamble’s Ghost, a daughter of Ghostzapper-Gambling Girl, is trained by Josie Carroll who won the Oaks in 2011 with Inglorious en route to a famous Queen’s Plate score.
Gamble’s Ghost graduated at first asking on August 14 with a widening 8 ¼-length victory that hinted at talent to come. She followed the maiden win with a rallying runner-up effort in the Grade II Natalma Stakes behind eventual Horse of the Year, Catch a Glimpse. The filly then won the Grade III Mazarine and finished second, behind Oaks rival Caren, in the $250,000 Princess Elizabeth Stake to complete a stellar juvenile campaign.
The dark bay wintered in Florida and made her return with a sixth-place finish, defeated just two lengths, in the Grade III Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs. Last time out, Gamble’s Ghost made a menacing move through the turn to swoop the field and win the Grade III Selene Stakes under regular pilot Luis Contreras.
“It was a very windy that day and I made my move early for that reason. She was impressive to win the way she did coming from off the pace,” said Contreras.
Contreras has worked the horse twice since the Selene score including a five furlong effort on June 4 in 1:00.40.
“She’s doing very well in the morning, the same as always,” said Contreras. “She keeps getting better.”
Contreras believes the multiple graded stakes winning filly will enjoy extending to 1 1/8-miles in Sunday’s endurance test.
“She relaxes nicely early in the race and comes up when the running starts at the half-mile. I don’t see any problems as I can sit and wait to move anytime I want,” said Contreras.
Trainer Mike Doyle, who won the Oaks in 1989 with Blondeinamotel, will send out the talented trio of Tiz Imaginary, Crumlin Spirit and Dublin Diva.
“They are all very talented,” said Doyle. “Crumlin Spirit is very nice and relaxed, very easy going. Tiz Imaginary was high strung, but changed a lot between the ages of 2-3. Dublin Diva can get fired up, but she’s all business when the race starts. I think she could be a really good one.”
Windhaven Farms’ Tiz Imaginary, a daughter of Tizway-Imaginary Gold, is a three-time winner from six starts, and most recently was a sharp winner of the seven furlong Fury Stakes on May 22. Patrick Husbands will take over from Contreras aboard the filly who will be making her first trip around two-turns on Sunday.
Crumlin Spirit, co-owned by Doyle with Dura Racing, boasts a field high 10 career starts. The Court Vision-Heart Lake bay won the Lady Angela Stakes, a seven furlong sprint, on May 1 under regular rider David Moran. Last time out, Crumlin Spirit angled off the rail and mounted a strong rally to earn show money in the Fury.
The lightly-raced Dublin Diva, also co-owned by Doyle and Dura Racing, has won two of her three career starts including a driving 1 ¼-length score last time out in an optional claiming sprint. Emma-Jayne Wilson will pilot the daughter of Leroidesanimaux-Diva Ash.
Robert Marzilli’s Caren, a bay daughter of Society’s Chairman-Jo Zak, won five of six juvenile starts including scores in the Shady Well, Nandi, Victorian Queen and Princess Elizabeth Stakes. The talented filly wintered in Florida, making one start, before returning home to finish second to Crumlin Spirit in the Lady Angela. Last time out, Caren put in a game runner-up effort to Gamble’s Ghost in the Grade III Selene after setting a solid pace. Jesse Campbell retains the mount.
Hall of Fame elect trainer Mark Casse, who has won the Oaks on three occasions with Lexie Lou (2014), Sealy Hill (2007) and Kimchi (2006), will saddle a trio of fillies in the Oaks including Conquest Partygirl, Conquest Dynasty and Luckbe Tanya.
Completing the field are Carnegie Hill Stable and Kingfield Racing Stable’s Neshama who has won two of five career starts for trainer Catherine Day Phillips. Eurico Rosa da Silva will ride the Sligo Bay filly. Trini Brewnette , trained by Dan Vella for owner Derek Chin, completed her juvenile run with a narrow nose score over Neshama in the 1 1/16-mile South Ocean Stakes. She comes into the Oaks off a pair of seven furlong sprints when third in the Lady Angela and sixth in the Fury. Alan Garcia will ride.
Woodbine Racetrack, which opened its doors to the public on June 12, 1956, will celebrate its 60th anniversary on Sunday with a special cake cutting ceremony. Fans are invited to join the celebration at 1:15PM on the 2nd floor grandstand following the first race. Relive some of the great moments of the past 60 years at http://www.woodbine60years.com/
Sunday will also feature the presentation of the coveted Avelino Gomez Award to champion jockey Gary Stahlbaum, a winner of 1,759 career races. Stahlbaum’s résumé includes a Sovereign Award (1980) as Canada’s top rider, nearly 120 lifetime stakes triumphs, including 16 graded, and close to $20 million in purse earnings. The Gomez Award is given annually to the person, Canadian-born, Canadian-raised or regular rider in the country for more than five years, who has made significant contributions to the sport.
$500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser
Sunday, June 12, Woodbine Tapeta, One mile and one-eighth
Race 11 Post time: 6:12 p.m. ET, live on TSN
1 / Conquest Dynasty / Gary Boulanger / Mark Casse / Conquest Stables LLC
2 / Dublin Diva / Emma-Jayne Wilson / Mike Doyle / Dura Racing & M.J. Doyle Racing Stables
3 / Luckbe Tanya / Florent Geroux / Mark Casse / Gary Barber & Lucky Coyne Racing
4 / Tiz Imaginary / Patrick Husbands / Mike Doyle / Windhaven Farm
5 / Crumlin Spirit / David Moran / Mike Doyle / Dura Racing & M.J. Doyle Racing Stables
6 / Gamble’s Ghost / Luis Contreras / Josie Carroll / Ivan Dalos
7 / Neshama / Eurico Rosa da Silva / Catherine Day Phillips / Carnegie Hill Stable, Kingfield Racing
8 / Caren / Jesse Campbell / Mike DePaulo / Robert Marzilli
9 / Trini Brewnette / Alan Garcia / Dan Vella / Derek Chin
10/ Conquest Partygirl / Javier Castellano / Mark Casse / Conquest Stables LLC.