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The new staircase construction at Woodbine.
Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto opened its 50th Thoroughbred racing season on Saturday, the first day of a 167-day meeting that runs to December 11th. The season is highlighted by a $21 million stakes schedule featuring 101 added-money events and overall purse distribution will top the $86 million mark. The Queen's Plate will have its 146th renewal on June 26, the Atto Mile is set for September 18 and the Pattison Canadian International is scheduled for October 23.
Unseasonably warm weather and sunny skies brought a good crowd out to the track for the opener, however, they were met by a construction site near the indoor paddock where a new outside staircase is being built. This replaces the old ramps that used to go to the second floor and should be completed within a month.
The feature event on opening day was the $140,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes, a 6-furlong sprint over the main track. A classy field assembled, including 2002 Horse of the Year Wake at Noon, sent off as a 15-1 outsider, and 2003 Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year Wando, the 3-1 second choice. Crack sprinter Chris's Bad Boy was sent off as the even-money favorite off two bullet workouts.
It was an exciting stretch battle in the Jacques Cartier Stakes with Minister's Wild Cat on the inside winning over Judith's Wold Rush.
When the gate opened, 77-1 longshot Gemini's Dream was quickest out of the gate and led the field after a quarter in 22.58, before dropping out of contention. Chris's Bad Boy seized the lead on the turn after a half in 45.30, and kept the lead to the 3/16 pole, at which time the stalkers and closers made their moves. 6-1 shot Minister's Wild Cat, who had stalked the pace in 3rd down the backstretch and around the turn, came on strong and went right by the pacesetters with a furlong to go, getting 5 furlongs in 57.44. 11-1 shot Judith's Wild Rush, seventh early, closed like a freight train through the lane after passing the field 4 wide, as he and Minister's Wild Cat finished noses apart at the line. The photo indicated that Minister's Wild Cat held on by the slimmest of margins, getting the 6-furlong distance in 1:09.67 over the fast track. It was 6 1/2 lengths back to Wando in third, while Wake at Noon finished a disappointing seventh.
Todd Kabel on Minister's Wild Cat head for the winner's circle.
Winning jockey Todd Kabel said, "I thought the other horse (Judith's Wild Rush) had me. He had momentum on me. My horse was getting tired, but he was digging in hard. I look forward to many more (stakes wins) and hopefully, to a tremendous year."
Winning trainer Scott Fairlie said, "He ran a hell of a race. He was down in Florida training for most of the winter. He dug in today." Ironically, Scott Fairlie trained runner-up Judith's Wild Rush until the end of last year.
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