December 4, 2021

Silent Poet upsets Highlander; Mutamakina holds on in Dance Smartly

Silent Poet and Justin Stein winning the Grade 1 Highlander. (Photo by Michael Burns)

Favorites were overturned in the three Woodbine turf stakes on Queen’s Plate Day, culminating in Silent Poet’s upstaging of odds-on Caravel in the $308,458 Highlander (G1). The other common theme was the success of close stalkers on the firm course.

Highlander (G1)

Maryland shipper Caravel was hammered into 0.55-1 favoritism in her first try versus males. But Graham Motion’s new recruit was outfinished by a couple of locally-based veterans in Silent Poet and Admiralty Pier. Stronach Stables’ homebred Silent Poet, winless since his course-and-distance success in the Nearctic (G2) last fall, thrived on the slight cutback, and a well-judged ride by Justin Stein.

Drawing an outside post was the key, trainer Nick Gonzalez told Woodbine publicity:

“Justin and I have been talking about it right up until this race, and he said, ‘You know, Nick, we drew two inside post positions his first two starts (of this campaign). I break, Poet breaks well, and I’ve got these guys on the outside of me chirping, chirping, chirping, and Poet wouldn’t relax…He used himself a lot more than he would’ve in the first eighth of the race. And he backed up both times.’

“When the overnight came out (for Sunday) and we had the eight-hole, Justin came by in the morning and said, ‘Nick, I think we’re going to be able to get a nice trip today.’ Everything worked out.”

On the other hand, Caravel was on the engine early, and that arguably ended up taxing her too much down the Woodbine stretch. While she sped past Chuck Willis through an opening quarter in :22.35, Silent Poet was perched in third. He challenged Caravel at the half in :45.16 and finally wore her down.

Kicking clear of the favorite after reaching five furlongs in :56.14, Silent Poet kept finding to stave off the late thrust of Admiralty Pier by a half-length. The 9.95-1 shot polished off six furlongs in a sharp 1:07.98 and rewarded his loyalists with a $21.90 win mutuel.

Another 1 1/4 lengths astern in third came Caravel, whose loss need not dent her Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) ambitions. Five furlongs at Del Mar, especially if held up just off the pace, is more her wheelhouse.

City Boy, prominent throughout, reported home fourth. Honey Won’t, Chuck Willis, Old Chestnut, and Turned Aside rounded out the order of finish.

Silent Poet’s first Grade 1 tally enhanced his resume to 22-11-4-2, $873,108. The Silent Name gelding, who established a seven-furlong course record here in the 2019 Play the King (G2), added last season’s Connaught Cup (G2) and Nearctic. Fourth in the Kennedy Road (G2) on Tapeta to conclude 2020, Silent Poet was fifth in both his June 27 allowance comeback and Connaught Cup title defense.

The Ontario-bred six-year-old was produced by Cara Bella, a Ghostzapper half-sister to 2000 Preakness (G1) star Red Bullet.

Dance Smartly (G2)

Al Shira’aa Farms’ Mutamakina parlayed a stalk-and-pounce trip into her second graded stakes victory in the $141,127 Dance Smartly (G2). Jockey Dylan Davis was aboard for the first time since that score in last November’s Long Island H. (G3), so he clicks with the Christophe Clement mare.

Mutamakina went off as the 3.40-1 second choice, with the fans betting Chad Brown’s Etoile down to 6-5 favoritism. But Etoile could not peg back a determined Mutamakina.

As Alnaseem took up the pacesetting role, Mutamakina sat a length back in second. Although the early splits of :25.98 and :50.32 were sedate, the pace lifted in the middle stages in 1:14.07 and 1:37.13. Mutamakina grabbed the lead at that mile sectional, and her stamina came through in the stretch of the 1 1/4-mile test. Staying on relentlessly, the daughter of Nathaniel held off Etoile by a half-length in 2:01.26.

Merveilleux and Court Return also gained late in third and fourth, respectively, in the bunched superfecta. There was a 2 1/4-length gap back to Blame Debbie, followed by Alnaseem and Afleet Katherine.

Mutamakina’s scorecard stands at 15-4-3-3, $343,516. The bay can claim smart form from her career in France with Carlos Laffon-Parias. Runner-up to Terebellum in the 2019 Prix de la Nonette (G2), Mutamakina played second fiddle to Sottsass next out in the Prix Niel (G2). She previously garnered the Prix Madame Jean Couturie at Vichy. Mutamakina was third in her stateside bow in the 2020 Zagora S. that set her up for the Long Island, and she also placed in this term’s Sheepshead Bay (G2) and River Memories S. at Belmont Park.

Bred by Widgham Stud in Great Britain, Mutamakina sports the familiar Galileo/Danehill cross. Her dam, the Danehill mare Joshua’s Princess, descends from 1995 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) heroine Ridgewood Pearl. Mutamakina’s pedigree features 3×3 inbreeding to Sadler’s Wells.

Ontario Colleen (G3)

Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Our Flash Drive made a winning turf debut in the $116,989 Ontario Colleen (G3). Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse and ridden by Patrick Husbands, the 2.45-1 second choice worked out the best passage. Our Flash Drive stalked in second as fellow Live Oak colorbearer Sweet Souper Sweet set fractions of :24.42 and :48.35, then accosted her passing six furlongs in 1:11.84. Thus Our Flash Drive got the jump on the closers and maintained a 1 1/2-length margin at the wire.

Seasons rallied well for second, continuing her sequence of stakes placings. Speightstown Shirl raced in third at every call, and Perseverancia was a similarly even fourth. Brown’s 1.65-1 favorite, Misspell, never got involved in her wide passage behind the pace and wound up fifth. Sixth-placer I Get It, Casse’s other remaining entrant after the scratch of Salty as Can Be, likewise had a tough task from the rear. Sweet Souper Sweet gave way in last.

Our Flash Drive, who negotiated the mile in 1:34.76, has won all three sophomore starts. The bay graduated from her Woodbine maiden win to capture the Selene (G3) on the same Tapeta track, beating Munnyfor Ro. Our Flash Drive has now bankrolled $180,937 from her 5-3-0-0 line.

The Florida-bred is a daughter of the great Ghostzapper and the Dynaformer mare Dynamotor. This is the family of Grade 1 vixen Pool Land, dam of Our Flash Drive’s stakes-winning stablemate Old Chestnut who was unplaced later in the Highlander.