Turf? Check. Huge field? Check. Two-year-olds? Check. Fantastically competitive and wide-open betting race? You bet!
On Sunday, Woodbine racecourse will host the $250,000 Summer Stakes (gr. I), a one-mile grass race that offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the upcoming Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. With that prize (plus Grade 1 status) on the line, horses ranging from stakes winners to European shippers and even winless maidens have turned out to contest the Summer Stakes.
From the perspective of proven class, Wallace looms as the horse to beat based off of a front-running score in the six-furlong Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine last month, which marked his debut on turf. Then again, the Kelsey Danner-trained son of Run Away and Hide did benefit from setting a slow pace, so perhaps the maiden Tricky Magician (who tracked the pace and closed some ground late while finishing second) or even Muskoka Wonder (who finished fourth after previously winning the Clarendon Stakes over the Woodbine Polytrack) can close the gap with a different setup in the Summer Stakes.
But all three might need to step up their game a notch to defeat Fog of War, who ships in from New York for the two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown. Fog of War was very impressive rallying to win his debut at Saratoga last month with a sharp turn-of-foot, and considering that he’s a beautifully-bred son of War Front out of the Galileo mare Say, the distance of the Summer Stakes should be perfect for him.
Federal Law is also shipping in for the Summer Stakes, but his trip is considerably longer. The son of Scat Daddy is coming all the way from Great Britain, where he’s cracked the exacta in all three of his starts thus far. His lone start on turf yielded a victory, and the Archie Watson-trained runner will add blinkers for his North American debut.
Jungle Warrior, who rallied powerfully to defeat Tricky Magician in his maiden run at Woodbine last month, and Nashtrick, an easy winner going seven furlongs at Woodbine three weeks ago, are among the local runners with promising form over the Woodbine turf course. Avie’s Flatter is likewise based at Woodbine, but his debut victory came by 2 ½ lengths over the Polytrack, so the Summer Stakes will be his first start on grass.
Dob Dob, who overcame a slow start to break his maiden first time out going a mile on turf at Laurel Park, will represent trainer Michael Dickinson. Completing the field are the maidens Cerrado, Moon Swings, Skychief, and War of Will.
The Summer Stakes is the ninth race of the day, with a post time of 5:30 p.m. Eastern.