Hall of Fame trainer Sid Attard celebrated his birthday in the Woodbine winner’s circle as Zestina turned in a gutsy performance to win the $125,000 Ontario Damsel Stakes on Saturday afternoon over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
“This was a nice present!” said Attard after Stronach Stables’ homebred filly Zestina fought back in the stretch when Scarlet Flutter forged ahead.
The daughter of Silent Name and Spun Lace earned her second straight stakes win as she stretched out to the one-mile distance for the first time in her career after scoring a victory at the start of the month in the seven-furlong Passing Mood Stakes.
With Gary Boulanger aboard, Zestina tracked in third-place outside of favoured Woodbine Oaks champion Dixie Moon while Lunar Garden led the field of Ontario-bred three-year-old fillies with Safe to Say stalking behind in second.
Lunar Garden had cleared Safe to Say into a :24.21 first quarter and went unchallenged through middle splits of :47.27 and 1:10.96. It wasn’t until the turn when Safe to Say and Zestina made their moves and rallied past the pacesetter down the stretch. Safe to Say gained a short lead, but Zestina was resurgent just before the wire to prevail by half a length in 1:35.91.
“When I saw her in third, I saw she was in good shape there,” said Attard. “I said she was going to run from there, so she did. Then the six-horse [Scarlet Flutter] went by her and she dug in. She always digs in, she doesn’t like to get beat.”
“She’s a very gutsy filly,” said Boulanger. “First time going a mile on the turf and she’s tough. She doesn’t ever give up.
“She’s shown us a lot in the morning. She’s kind of a feisty little girl, but if you know her, you know how to handle her. Sid and them have done a great job with her, I just get along well with her and thank you very much to all the connections.”
Zestina now boasts wins in half of her eight career starts and has never missed the board for more than $185,000 in earnings.
“She’s just a little filly. Believe me, after the race a couple days from now, she’ll be kicking, bucking and everything,” said Attard. “She never gets tired, honestly. She’s a nice little filly, I love her.”
Zestina was the 5-1 third choice and returned $13.10, $5.80 and $7. She combined with Scarlet Flutter ($5, $4.70) for a $2 exacta payout of $62.30. Line of Vision ($11.20) rounded out the trifecta, which paid $145.20 for a $1 ticket. With Lunar Garden giving way to finish fourth, the superfecta returned $508.60 for a $1 ticket. Safe to Say and Dixie Moon completed the finish order.