Godolphin’s homebred Old Persian imposed his authority as the 3-5 favorite in Saturday’s $228,911 Northern Dancer Turf (G1), although few would have foreseen exactly how the 1 1/2-mile test unfolded.
Charlie Appleby’s globetrotter didn’t get off to a brilliant beginning, lobbing out last of the sextet, but jockey James Doyle coolly got him into a stalking third on the inside. That’s about where Old Persian figured to be, except for the fact that early leader Cooler Mike tore off as far as a dozen lengths ahead down the backstretch. His pace of :24.82, :47.63, and 1:11.88 appeared unsustainable for the 34-1 longest shot on the board, and Cooler Mike was spent by the final turn.
Tiz a Slam, the 5-2 second choice, readily passed Cooler Mike. Doyle was alive to the changing complexion of the race and made sure that Old Persian covered that move. Down the stretch, Old Persian gathered inexorable momentum and asserted his class by 2 1/2 lengths in a final time of 2:27.78.
The real battle was for the placings. The 23-1 Nessy and the 7-2 Focus Group, at the rear early, caught Tiz a Slam in a three-way photo. A nose separated runner-up Nessy from Focus Group, who got his head down before Tiz a Slam. The last two across the line – Sir Sahib and Cooler Mike – were strung out like steeplechasers.
Old Persian added another line to a resume already boasting victories in this season’s Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night and Dubai City of Gold (G2) and last year’s Great Voltigeur (G2), Fairway S., and King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot. A subpar seventh in the May 31 Coronation Cup (G1), he hinted of a turnaround with a sneaky third in the Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) in his latest. The son of Dubawi has compiled a record of 16-9-1-2 with earnings of approximately $4,349,758.
The Northern Dancer Turf is a stepping stone to the Canadian International (G1) on October 12, but Appleby’s assistant, Alex Merriam, was in no hurry to commit to a return visit.
“Not quite sure at the minute,” Merriam told Woodbine publicity. “I spoke to Charlie and he said we’ll go back to Europe, see how he is, see how he comes out of the race and make a plan from there. No immediate plans at the minute.”
The $190,759 Canadian (G2) trophy stayed home as two-time Sovereign Award winner Starship Jubilee repelled the shippers arrayed against her for the second straight year, only her repeat came through opposite tactics. Last to first in the 2018 edition, the Kevin Attard mare instead took control right out of the gate in a race lacking much in the way of pace.
Jockey Luis Contreras measured out her speed through opening splits of :24.64 and :49.09, and Starship Jubilee put the field away with an injection of pace beginning at the six-furlong mark in 1:11.79. The 5-2 chance rapidly opened up by daylight in the lane, reaching the mile in 1:34.01 and completing about 1 1/8 miles in 1:45.84 on a course labeled yielding. Contreras, however, reported that it was in perfect shape.
The Queen’s colorbearer, Magnetic Charm, nipped 6-5 favorite Competitionofideas for runner-up honors, with Holy Helena alongside in fourth in a blanket finish for the minors.
Starship Jubilee, famously claimed for $16,000 at Gulfstream Park in February 2017, has bankrolled $865,670 from her 30-13-4-3 line. The Florida-bred daughter of Indy Wind has also landed the past two runnings of the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf along with the 2017 Dance Smartly (G2) and Nassau (G2). Second in the latter pair this summer, Starship Jubilee was most recently third in the Ballston Spa (G2) at Saratoga. She might well look to improve upon her fourth in the 2018 E.P. Taylor (G1) in the October 12 renewal.
Earlier in the $106,479 Bold Venture (G3), Yorkton successfully defended his title in wire-to-wire fashion after Canadian sprint star Pink Lloyd was compromised at the start, reported home fourth, and the stewards declared him a non-starter.
Trained by Stuart Simon and ridden by Patrick Husbands, Yorkton ended up going off as the 7-5 choice once the heavily favored Pink Lloyd was no longer an official runner. The son of Speightstown fended off the late rally by Ikerrin Road by three-quarters of a length, with Curlin’s Honor edging Pink Lloyd for third.