The well-travelled Gianna’s Dream, trained by Mike Maker and owned by Jordan Wycoff, will get her first test on Canadian turf in Saturday’s $175,000 Grade 2 Nassau Stakes at Woodbine.
A lifetime winner of nine races from 20 starts, the five-year-old daughter of Twirling Candy will look for a sweeter result than her past two starts. The bay finished sixth in the Grade 3 Marshua’s River Stakes on January 13 and fifth in the Mary Todd Stakes on February 17, both contested at Gulfstream Park.
Prior to those two efforts, Gianna’s Dream, who has competed at Remington Park, Delta Downs, Indiana Grand, Churchill, Saratoga, Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Canterbury, Laurel and Monmouth, had posted three wins, one second and a third in her five previous starts.
“She’s a filly that I think is really going to take to this different style of turf course,” said Nolan Ramsey, grandson of thoroughbred owner/breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and assistant to Maker. “I had her this winter at Gulfstream and I don’t think she particularly liked that type of turf. After Gulfstream, she had a tough campaign, so we gave her a little time off. She came back looking absolutely unreal. She’s put on some weight and her coat looks really good.
“She seems to be really happy up here at Woodbine. We’ve had her on the Tapeta every day and she seemed to skip over it just fine. I really think she’s going to run a big one this weekend.”
Gianna’s Dream launched her career in impressive fashion, winning a maiden special weight race at Remington Park on August 19, 2005.
Her sophomore season yielded five wins, including back-to-back stakes scores in the Bob Barry Memorial and Oklahoma Classics Distaff Turf. The Oklahoma-bred finished the campaign with eight top-three finishes in nine starts, along with $206,560 in purse earnings.
Bred by Center Hills Farm and Randy Blair, Gianna’s Dream will look to return to the form that saw her finish a neck back for all the spoils in the Grade 3 My Charmer Stakes on December 16 at Gulfstream.
Ramsey believes she’ll show up with a big effort this Sunday in the one-mile stake run over the world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
“She’s kind of a funny filly,” he offered. “She’ll let you know when she’s ready to run. She’s definitely giving me that all signs are go the last few days. She’s really on the muscle and feeling good about herself. It’s always a good sign when they tell you that they are ready.
“She’s typically a laid-back filly, kind of a sweetheart. But the last few days, she’s been on the muscle and a little tough to handle, which is something I like to see.”
The Grade 2 Nassau will go as Race 8 on Sunday’s 10-race card. First post time is 1 p.m.
One day earlier, Ramsey will watch 2016 Queen’s Plate champion and this year’s Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup winner Sir Dudley Digges, owned by his grandparents and also trained by Maker, contest the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes at Woodbine.
“He’s doing unreal,” said Ramsey. “My wife and I went to Barbados with him. Don’t get me wrong, everyone did a wonderful job during the shipping process, but it’s just hard on horses, especially when you come back. We had to quarantine him in Miami for a week. But he came back out of the race feeling like he was the king of the world. He’s never been a laid-back horse. He’s always had a lot of character.
“I thought leading up to the race that Shining Copper (second in the Gold Cup) was absolutely the horse to beat. But I switched my pick. In the last those two days leading up to the race, he (Sir Dudley Digges) was a pain to deal with. He just wanted to do whatever he wanted to do and there was no stopping him. In the last few days here, he’s shown the same attitude. He looks great and he obviously loves this track. It’s a short field, but it’s definitely not lacking any class.”
Does Ramsey envision a dream weekend at the Toronto oval?
“That wouldn’t be too shabby,” said Ramsey. “I’ve had five starts so far with three seconds and twice I’ve been beaten by a head. At this point, if I could take one, that would be fine.”
The Eclipse Stakes will headline the on-track action at the Greenwood Stakes event on Saturday, May 26 at Woodbine. The afternoon will include high stakes Thoroughbred horse races, style contests, lawn games, art installations, culinary fare as well as a cocktail showcase with Toronto’s top mixologists. For more information or to purchase tickets to the fashion-forward social affair, visit www.greenwoodstakes.com.
Field for the $175,000 Grade 2 Nassau Stakes
Post / Horse / Jockey / Trainer
1 / Jennifer Lynnette / Chantal Sutherland / Mark Casse
2 / Gianna’s Dream / Luis Contreras / Michael Maker
3 / Ghostly Presence / Rafael Hernandez / Roger Attfield
4 / Starship Jubilee / Eurico Rosa da Silva / Kevin Attard
5 / Bletchley / Patrick Husbands / Mark Casse
6 / Niigon’s Eclipse / Gary Boulanger / Rachel Halden
7 / Grizzel / Davy Moran / Mike Doyle
Field for the $175,000 Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes
Post / Horse / Jockey / Trainer
1 / Melmich / Eurico Rosa da Silva / Kevin Attard
2 / Gigantic Breeze / Gary Boulanger / Alexander McPherson
3 / Tizzarunner / Alan Garcia / Michael Maker
4 / Are You Kidding Me / Rafael Hernandez / Roger Attfield
5 / Hollywood Critic / Chantal Sutherland / Barb Minshall
6 / Tiz a Slam / Patrick Husbands / Roger Attfield
7 / Sir Dudley Digges / Luis Contreras / Michael Maker