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Jockeys Emma Jayne Wilson and Rafael Hernandez share the trophy after their dead heat finish in the Valedictory Stakes.
The feature race on the second last weekend of the 2022 Woodbine meeting was the $150,000 Valedictory Stakes (G3), a 1 1/2 mile trip for older horses going around 3 turns of the Tapeta main track. Traditionally this race, the last graded stakes in Canada for the year, is run on Woodbine's closing day but was scheduled a week earlier this season, with closing day set for next Sunday. Conditions were typical for early December at the Toronto oval, with clear skies and a race time temperature of 0.2 C (32.4 F) accompanied by 28 km/h (17 MPH) wind gusts. A field of 12 made final entry with Who's the Star sent off as the 8-5 favorite off wins in the Durham Cup (G3) and Autumn Stakes (G2). In to challenge him included 7-2 second choice Novo Sol, third in both the Presque Isle Downs Mile and Autumn Stakes, and 15-4 third choice Megayacht, making his stakes debut off an allowance win last out.
Down the stretch in the Valedictory Stakes with Wentru on the inside and Who's the Star on the outside
Jockey Rafael Hernandez sent 42-1 Wentru to an uncontested lead first time by through fractions of 24.85, 49.47, 1:15.49, 1:41.34, and 2:05.75 while pressed by 15-2 fourth choice Angelou and stalked by 16-1 British Royalty. Turning for home, Wentru had a 3 length lead which was rapidly diminishing. Favorite Who's the Star, 10th early under Emma-Jayne Wilson, came out 7 wide for room and rallied to catch Wentru to dead-heat for win in the final strides in 2:31.10. It was just a neck back to fast-closing 29-1 English Conqueror third. The same two riders, Emma-Jayne Wilson and Rafael Hernandez, were involved in the other graded stakes dead heat win at Woodbine this year, in the Nassau Stakes (G2) on July 2.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Wentru Hernandez 30.30 23.90 16.40 12 Who's the Star Wilson 3.40 3.60 3.10 1 English Conqueror Fukumoto 10.40 Winning Time: 2:31.10 $1 Exacta 7-12 78.40 $1 Exacta 12-7 32.05 $1 Trifecta 7-12-1 888.60 $1 Trifecta 12-7-1 301.05 $1 Superfecta 7-12-1-3 3,234.30 $1 Superfecta 12-7-1-3 1,461.80Results chart
Left: Wentru in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Rafael Hernandez said, "He relaxed. I wanted to get him more relaxed, but he was on the bridle all the way. It helped that no one went head-to-head with me. I was able to get the jump before everybody."
Right: Wentru heads out to the track before the race. Hernandez added, "I knew we were slowing, and if I can get the jump, I know he was going to do his job. We got the dead-heat, but he ran unbelievable."
Left: Who's the Star. Winning jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson said, "It was a different kind of pace setup for this race, a mile and a half you get a lot more horses coming from well off it. I thought there would be a lot more pace up front. I never got over to the rail and at the 3 1/2-furlong marker, I needed to get going. There was a lot of horses in the way. There were a lot of horses in the race. He's got that wicked kick, so I swung him to the outside and got him going as fast as I could."
Right: Who's the Star walks over before the race. Wilson added, "This is what we're here for, to get on fast horses, and he's a really fast horse. He's been wonderful to partner with. He absolutely, 100 percent deserves the congratulations at the end of the year, the (Sovereign Award for champion older horse)."
Left: Third place finisher English Conqueror returns after the race. The Darwin Banach trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 7 thirds in 21 starts, earning $279,348 for owner-breeder JWS Farms.
Right: The entire field first time by in the Valedictory.
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