TORONTO, July 27, 2023 – A pair of Ontario-sired 3-year-old turf stakes, the $100,000 Thunder Bay, and $100,000 Lake Superior, share the spotlight on Sunday’s 14-race card at Woodbine.
Seven fillies, including Souper Sunday, will take to the E.P. Taylor Turf Course for the six-furlong Thunder Bay, part of the Ontario Sire Heritage Series.
Established in 2021, the Ontario Sire Heritage Series is comprised of three $100,000 legs and a $100,000 final for two divisions: 3-year-old colts & geldings, and 3-year-old fillies. The total purse structure for the series is $800,000.
All three legs and the final are contested over different distances and surfaces: the Woodbine Inner Turf Course, the Woodbine E.P. Taylor Turf Course, the Woodbine Tapeta, and Fort Erie Dirt Track.
In addition to the $400,000 in purses for each division, there is $70,000 in bonus money allocated to the top-three finishers in each division at the end of the series.
Trained by Steve Owens, who co-bred with Beverly Lewis and co-owns with Empress Stables, Souper Sunday has won three straight races, including her most recent victory, the five-furlong Georgian Bay Stakes (also part of the Heritage Series), contested on the Woodbine inner grass course on July 8.
It was the first stakes crown for the daughter of Souper Speedy-Mrs. Donaghy.
“All the wins have been impressive,” said Owens. “She kept moving forward from that first win, which was her first start as a 3-year-old. She just kept progressing and learning, getting better and stronger with each race. She’s moved forward and she’s a very happy filly.”
Making her debut last June, Souper Sunday recorded a pair of thirds in her first two starts, both sprints over the Woodbine Tapeta. After a ninth and sixth over the E.P. Taylor turf and the Tapeta, respectively, in August, she was third in a $15,000 claiming race at seven panels over the Tapeta in December and was then sent to the farm to reset for her sophomore campaign.
It was a game-changing move for the multiple graded stakes-winning trainer, who has watched the dark bay filly go undefeated in three starts in 2023.
“Sending her to the farm, it was something that needed to be done,” said Owens. “We were going nowhere last year. She always had a lot of talent in the morning. She would outwork [stablemate and multiple stakes winner] Poulin in O T on a regular basis. I think her body was carrying a lot of aches and pains from the transition from training.”
Owens likes what he sees in Souper Sunday, now 3-0-3 from eight starts, ahead of the Thunder Bay.
“I think the one thing that has stood out in her past three races is the determination she shows. I gave Eswan [jockey, Flores] some thoughts on what might be best for her, positioning-wise, in her races, and he incorporated that along with his take, which turned out well for all of us. We know the six furlongs is well within her scope and the turf is too. She’s filled out. She’s tiny, but she has grown into a nice frame. Her mindset is really good right now too.”
Patches O’ Houlihan, Poulin in O T renew rivalry in Lake Superior
Five hopefuls, including sprint standouts Patches O’Houlihan and Poulin in O T, will vie for top prize in the $100,000 Lake Superior, to be contested at six furlongs over the E.P. Taylor turf.
Trained by Canadian Horse Racing inductee Robert Tiller for owner/breeder Frank Di Giulio, Jr., the son of Reload-Maythefourthbwithu, comes into his latest start off a sharp score in the Lake Huron Stakes, an Ontario Sire Heritage Series race contested at five furlongs on Woodbine’s inner turf course.
It was the fourth win from five starts for Patches O’Houlihan, whose first effort on grass came over the E.P. Taylor turf in last year’s seven-furlong Bull Page Stakes when he was sixth, one race after his victorious career bow on September 11.
Named after the character played by Rip Torn in the movie Dodgeball, Patches O’Houlihan will chase his fourth straight win on Sunday.
Tiller, three wins away from 2,100 for his career, has been impressed by the bay gelding.
“We look like the best horse in there now, and he’s doing good,” started Tiller. “The day [May 21, in his 3-year-old debut], when he won by nearly 11 lengths, that’s when we knew we had a good one in the barn. If you look at his Beyer figures and speed ratings, they are very good.”
He’s not ready yet, however, to put him in the same category as his former superstar sprint legend Pink Lloyd.
The popular son of Old Forester, owned by Entourage Stable, including principal owner Frank Di Giulio Jr., won 29 races, including 26 stakes, from 38 career starts, along with eight Sovereign Awards. He was voted Canada’s Horse of the Year in 2017.
“Patches, he’s like me, off and on. Happy, sad, crazy, and quiet… a little bit of everything. But he’s a very talented horse. I wouldn’t put him in the Pink Lloyd league just yet. He needs another 25 stakes races to catch him. But we’re happy to have this guy. He’s a talented horse.”
His rivals include Poulin in O T, another Owens trainee. The horse named for Canadian hockey superstar Marie-Philip Poulin had a banner rookie campaign, one that yielded four wins and a second from six starts and a Sovereign Award finalist nod in the top 2-year-old male category.
“He had the winter off with a little arthroscopic surgery on his ankle,” Owens said of the three-time stakes winner. “He was training really well in the spring and doing everything right.
The chestnut began his career with back-to-back victories over the Tapeta surface, showcasing his talents in his 4 ½-furlong opener at the $40,000 optional claiming level and doubling up in the open Victoria Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs.
Overall, Poulin in O T, who arrives at the Lake Superior off a pair of thirds, in the Queenston Stakes on June 11 and the Lake Huron on July 8, is 4-1-2 from eight starts along with $227,359 (U.S.) in purse earnings.
“He hooked [King’s Plate contender] Kaukokaipuu and [Plate Trial winner] Paramount Prince in the Queenston and finished a head back of Paramount Prince,” noted Owens.
The veteran conditioner was pleased with the Lake Huron performance.
“For months, I watched [trainer] Mike Mattine’s horse, Silent Reserve, who finished second in the Lake Huron. To me, he is a top-class, five-furlong inner turf specialist. And he proved it on July 21 when he came back and won the allowance optional claiming race at five furlongs on the inner turf. He won it very convincingly.
“Poulin in O T is a big horse, and the Lake Huron didn’t set up very well for him. He was stuck with the one-hole and Mike’s horse got to the front. As soon as we got back to the position we were looking for, Patches O’Houlihan got that position, so we had to come from further back. The tight turns didn’t help him because he’s such a big horse. He had to wait for the straighten out in the stretch and come with his run. He also gave six pounds to both horses. Now, we only have to give two pounds to Patches O’Houlihan and we’re running on a wider turn on the E.P. Taylor, which he has won on going seven furlongs. Don’t take anything away from Patches O’Houlihan. He is a really nice, hard-grinding horse. But I think it will be a little fairer this time.”
First post time is 1:05 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action through HPIbet.com and the Dark Horse Bets app.
FIELD FOR THE THUNDER BAY
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Souper Sinclair – Jose Campos – Philip Hall
2 – Anam Cara – Amanda Vandermeersch – Sarah Ritchie
3 – Souper Sunday – Eswan Flores – Steve Owens
4 – Hot Cargo (S) – Rico Walcott – Sid Attard
5 – Flowers ‘n Berries – Keveh Nicholls – Michael McDonald
6 – Foolish Games – Omar Moreno – Michelle Love
7 – Tamana – Rachel Slevinsky – Nigel Burke
FIELD FOR THE LAKE SUPERIOR
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Poulin in O T – Eswan Flores – Steve Owens
2 – One Bay Hemingway (S) – Luis Contreras – Sid Attard
3 – Sooner Lunar – David Moran – Michael Doyle
4 – Absolute Chairman (S) – Declan Carroll – Barrington Siddo
5 – Patches O’Houlihan – Daisuke Fukumoto – Robert Tiller
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms