Sparkles’ Girl, who won the 2017 running of the Classy ‘n Smart Stakes, goes for her fifth career win in her 20th start, in this year’s edition of the 1 1/16-mile main track feature, Sunday at Woodbine.
Trained by John Charalambous for owner C.E.C. Farms, Sparkles’ Girl, a five-year-old daughter of Society’s Chairman, took last year’s Classy ‘n Smart by a head over Trini Brewnette, who is also back to contest the race.
Since that victory, the mare has yet to return to the winner’s circle in four subsequent starts, including a fourth in her most recent engagement, the OLG Algoma Stakes (presented by Woodbine) on August 29, a race won by Trini Brewnette.
Charalambous believes Sparkles’ Girl is up to defending her Classy ‘n Smart crown.
“Her last race was better than it looks because she hadn’t raced in two months,” said the veteran conditioner. “Now I’m getting the chance to run back within a reasonable amount of time and she’s already had that distance race underneath her. We’re expecting a good race.”
Sparkles’ Girl, who was fifth in the 2016 Classy ‘n Smart, has four wins, five seconds and a pair of thirds from 11 career starts. Last year, she won two races and posted four seconds, including a runner-up effort in the Algoma Stakes.
In 2015, she took the Ontario Lassie Stakes by three lengths with Emma-Jayne Wilson, who will once again be aboard Sunday.
“Sparkles is just an absolute pleasure to train,” said Charalambous. “This is the fourth year I’ve trained her and I’ve never had a problem with her. She’s just great to be around. She also has a great temperament.
“She’s very competitive. Every time you put the bridle on her, she goes out and gives her best effort. It makes my job a lot easier. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find races for her this year, but we’re hoping she can come up with a strong effort this weekend.”
Also slated to contest the Classy ‘n Smart, for Ontario-sired fillies and mares, is Bear Paw, a three-year-old daughter of Bear’s Kid, who finished second at 20-1 in this year’s Algoma.
“She’s developed really well,” said Ashlee Brnjas, who trains Bear Paw for the ownership duo of her father, John (Colebrook Farms) and Danny Dion’s Bear Stables. “She’s just a nice horse.
“She doesn’t do anything, on form, that’s wrong,” said the multiple graded stakes winning trainer, who has 255 career victories to date. “You have to appreciate that. She was a little bit fractious in the gate at the beginning, but my guys did a great job handling that. She’s a pretty confident and gutsy little horse.”
A horse that’s heading into her second straight stakes race ready to run.
“She’s coming into the race in great form,” said Brnjas. “On a personal note, I’m so happy for my dad and Bear (Dion). They’ve done so much to help build the industry and sport. She’s coming into the race well and she’s worked well. I think we deserve to be there and I know the connections want to be in this stakes race.”
A Classy ‘n Smart victory would cap a memorable September for both the conditioner and owners.
Less than two weeks ago, they teamed with Johnny Bear to win the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes for the second straight year.
“To win it once was absolutely amazing,” said Brnjas. “To be able to win it twice in a row with Johnny Bear – you don’t even know how to put it into words.”
The Classy ‘n Smart is carded as race eight on Sunday’s 11-race program. First post is 1:05 p.m.
FIELD FOR THE CLASSY ‘N SMART
Post / Horse / Jockey / Trainer
1 / Niigon’s Bay / Patrick Husbands / Rachel Halden
2 / Sparkles’ Girl / Emma-Jayne Wilson / John Charalambous
3 / Niigon’s Legacy / Steve Bahen / Layne Giliforte
4 / Crumlin Queen / Rafael Hernandez / Michael Doyle
5 / Bear Paw / Luis Contreras / Ashlee Brnjas
6 / Trini Brewnette / Eurico Rosa da Silva / Kevin Attard
7 / Stormy Summer / Kazushi Kimura / Andrew Smith