Moonlit Promise could shine again in Sweet Briar Too at Woodbine

Moonlit Promise was making her first start of the season when she won last year’s Sweet Briar Too and went on to a perfect campaign with wins in the Grade 3 Ontario Fashion and Grade 2 Bessarabian.

The horse and race are the same but the scenario is different as Moonlit Promise seeks a second consecutive Sweet Briar Too on Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday, but will be making the seventh start of a campaign which has yet to yield a victory.

The $100,000 Sweet Briar Too, a 6 ½ furlong overnight stakes for fillies and mares, attracted a field of eight.

“We’re a little disappointed,” said Josie Carroll, who conditions the Kentucky-bred for Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings Inc. and Windsor Boys Racing.

“I think she’s been a little off form this year, but she’s been training well and we’re hoping she’ll come back around.”

Moonlit Promise has turned in some solid efforts, with a close second-place finish in the Grade 3 Whimsical and a third in the Grade 3 Hendrie.

But the five-year-old has been not so effective in her last couple, although she did encounter traffic problems last time out after breaking from the rail when making her most recent appearance in the Grade 3 Seaway at seven furlongs.

Moonlit Promise, who drew the inside post again, will be adding blinkers and a new rider in Eurico Rosa da Silva.

“She seems to have lost a little focus this year,” said Carroll. “You’re hoping the blinkers make the difference.”

Trainer Mike De Paulo has two in the Sweet Briar Too but the chances are that only one will start as Code Warrior is cross-entered in Monday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Presque Isle Masters over the same 6 ½ furlong distance on a Tapeta surface.

As of Thursday morning, De Paulo said the Pennsylvania stakes was more probable for Code Warrior, a five-year-old owned by Zilli Racing Stables who has won the Hendrie and the Seaway in her last two starts here on the Tapeta.

That would leave Sister Nation, a four-year-old Kentucky-bred owned by Mark Dodson, to carry the mail for the De Paulo outfit.

Sister Nation, who defeated fellow sophomores to become a stakes winner here in last fall’s Ruling Angel at 6 ½ furlongs on the Tapeta, finished ninth in the Seaway last time out following close-up fifth-place finishes at 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 3 Trillium and Grade 3 Ontario Matron.

“Her last race, the jock thought maybe he had her a little too close,” said De Paulo. “He moved her up on the outside, and she didn’t finish as well as we’d like. Her other races this year were all pretty good.

“She’s a lovely filly, who we’re trying to win a graded stake with. We’re hoping to get lucky.”

Gary Boulanger gets the call on Sister Nation for the first time since he guided her to her maiden win here June 17, 2017.

Trainer Mark Casse also will field a pair in the four-year-olds Malibu Bonnie and Victory to Victory. 

Malibu Bonnie, a decent third in the Seaway, will be seeking her first stakes win.

Victory to Victory became a Grade 1 winner here as a two-year-old in the Natalma Stakes over one mile of turf.

The Florida-bred is coming off an eighth-place finish here in the Grade 2 Royal North at six furlongs on the grass and would be making her first start on a synthetic surface here.

Here is a complete look at the field for the Sweet Briar Too Stakes in post position order:

$100,000 Sweet Briar Too Stakes
1/Moonlit Promise/Eurico Rosa da Silva/Josie Carroll
2/Code Warrior/Jesse Campbell/Mike De Paulo
3/Silent Sonet /Luis Contreras/Nick Gonzalez
4/Malibu Bonnie/Jerome Lermyte/Mark Casse
5/Answer My Call/Ademar Santos/Ryan Walsh
6/Just Be Kind/Emma-Jayne Wilson/Reade Baker
7/Sister Nation/Gary Boulanger/Mike De Paulo
8/Victory to Victory/Rafael Hernandez/Mark Casse

Moonlit Promise, picture Michael Burns Photography

Eskiminzin faces Ontario-sired company in Vice Regent

Eskiminzin has faced difficult assignments in his last two starts, finishing fourth in both Fort Erie’s Prince of Wales and Woodbine’s Breeders’ Stakes for Canadian-bred three-year-olds.

On Sunday at Woodbine, Eskiminzin will be looking to be a big fish in a smaller pond as he returns to Ontario-sired company for the $100,000 Vice Regent, a one-mile turf stakes which drew a field of seven Ontario-sired three-year-olds.

“The flat mile should be perfect—he’ll enjoy that,” said Carlos Grant, who conditions the homebred Eskiminzin for Jecara Farms Corp. “He’s pretty versatile. Any place you run him, he’ll go.”

Eskiminzin became a stakes winner here last summer in the Simcoe, a 6 ½ furlong Tapeta race for two-year-olds who went through the ring at the local yearling sale.

The Cold Harbor colt was slow to find his sea legs this season but got back in the groove in the restricted Bold Ruckus, a six-furlong race run over a yielding turf course.

Shipped to Fort Erie for his next start, Eskiminzin was soundly beaten over a track rendered very sloppy by a close-to-post downpour. 

Undaunted, Eskiminzin returned three and a half weeks later to stalk the pace of front-running winner Neepawa before weakening in the Breeders’ over 1 ½ miles of yielding turf.

“He bounced out of it very, very good,” said Grant. “He’s small but he’s very tough.”

Underscoring Grant’s words, Eskiminzin tuned up for the Vice Regent last Sunday with a four-furlong breeze in a bullet :48.40 on the turf training track under Rafael Hernandez, who gets the call for the first time on Sunday.

Silent Poet is the field’s only two-time winner on turf, having captured an open optional claimer over seven furlongs in his first start on the medium and then prevailed in the same company at six furlongs last time out under jockey Gary Boulanger.

His most significant outing, however, could turn out to be a second-place finish two starts back behind the four-year-old Vanish.

Claimed that day, Vanish returned to run second in the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes and earn a shot at Saturday’s Ricoh Woodbine Mile.

“It’s a logical spot for him,” said trainer Nick Gonzalez. “I think turf’s his best surface. 

“There’s a little bit of a question if he gets a mile, but Gary’s confident it will be no problem.”

Silent Poet was well-beaten in his only try beyond seven furlongs but that came when he was making just his fourth career start in the 1 ¼ mile Queen’s Plate.

Royal Laser, who has been in good form while competing in open optional claimers on the turf, is another leading contender.

Trained by Sid Attard, Royal Laser finished second behind four-year-old Coleyville over 1 1/16 miles and then prevailed over older rivals at one mile. 

“It’s not a bad spot for him,” said Attard, who trains Royal Laser for Goldmart Farms and Royal Laser Racing. “He’s been racing good, working good. He’ll like the distance.”

Be Vewy Vewy Quiet, winner of two restricted stakes as a two-year-old, rebounded from a dull sophomore bow to well when makings his turf debut and ending the runner-up to Eskiminzin in the Bold Ruckus. 

But in his only subsequent start, Be Vewy Vewy Quiet was outrun on the Tapeta in the open King Corrie Stakes.

“I think he’s coming into it good,” said trainer Robert Tiller. “He’s going to have to be at his best to compete in there. He seemed to handle the turf well.”

Here is a look at the complete field for the Vice Regent Stakes in the post position order:

$100,000 Vice Regent Stakes
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1/Timeskip/Jeffrey Alderson/Renee Kierans
2/Carmenootz/Emma-Jayne Wilson/Bob Neumann
3/Silent Poet/Gary Boulanger/Nick Gonzalez
4/Royal Laser/Luis Contreras/Sid Attard
5/Be Vewy Vewy Quiet/Eurico Rosa da Silva/Bob Tiller
6/Eskiminzin/Rafael Hernandez/Carlos Grant
7/Silver Sheriff/Chris Husbands/Mike Keogh