TORONTO, August 17, 2023 – Shirl’s Speight, freshened since a winter campaign consisting of starts in Japan and Dubai, returns to action at Woodbine in Saturday’s $200,000 King Edward Stakes (G2T).
A field of 11 will contest the King Edward, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward, which is the major local stepping-stone to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1T) on September 16.
“He’s doing great,” said Roger Attfield, who conditions Shirl’s Speight for owner and breeder Charles Fipke.
“He’s still carrying a bit more weight than I’d like him to, but I need to run him in this race to get to the [Woodbine] Mile, anyway,” said Attfield. “He’s working lights out, but he always does.”
Shirl’s Speight, a Kentucky-bred 6-year-old horse, became a Grade 1 winner in the Makers Mark Mile at Keeneland last April and concluded his campaign there with a strong second-place finish behind recently retired Modern Games in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T).
Modern Games also had won the Woodbine Mile, with Shirl’s Speight fourth in what was his second start (seventh in 2020) in the fixture.
Making the long trek to Tokyo for the February Stakes (G1), Shirl’s Speight finished a non-threatening ninth in a rare start on dirt but rebounded with a solid fourth in Meydan’s Dubai Turf (G1) at 1 1/8 miles.
“He handled the trip better than I’ve ever seen a horse do it,” said Attfield. “He never left an oat anywhere – on an airplane, a van, a stable. It’s amazing, how well he did.”
Back in Kentucky, Shirl’s Speight regrouped with designs on a fall campaign.
“He was off for two months,” said Attfield. “He was turned out for a month, but then he got a little too fat.”
Attfield will be seeking his fourth King Edward crown after scoring with Tower of Texas, in 2015; Eccentric, in 2007; and Perfect Soul, sire of Shirl’s Speight’s dam, Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Perfect Shirl, in 2003.
Shirl’s Speight will be the 126-pound topweight in the King Edward with Emma-Jayne Wilson named to ride.
Trainer Mark Casse will be looking for his fourth straight win in the King Edward after clicking with Filo di Arianna (BRZ), Olympic Runner, and March to the Arch through the past three years.
Casse’s candidates this year are Lucky Score and Conglomerate.
Purchased privately here last fall following his victory in the six-furlong Vigil (G3), Lucky Score joined the Casse outfit in Florida at season’s end.
And Lucky Score has continued to run well in his three starts here this year, including a victory in the Highlander (G2T) over six furlongs of E.P. Taylor turf and a close third in the seven-furlong Connaught Cup (G2T) over the same surface. The Ontario-bred 5-year-old gelding will be travelling as far as a mile for the first time.
Conglomerate, claimed for $50,000 from a second-place finish here July 30 in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming race on the inner turf course, debuts for owner Gary Barber after being supplemented to the King Edward for $3,000.
War Bomber (IRE), a dual stakes winner since being claimed by owner Bruno Schickedanz, also exits a strong showing in the Connaught Cup for trainer Norm McKnight, where he was beaten a length as the runner-up and edged Lucky Score by a head.
An Irish-bred 5-year-old gelding, War Bomber (IRE) frequently flies under the radar with his victory in the 2021 Toronto Cup over a mile of turf coming at odds of almost 20-1 and his front-running tally in last summer’s Seagram Cup (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the Tapeta yielding a $38.40 payoff.
Pao Alto, the lone shipper in the lineup, is coming off a nose defeat in the listed Prince George’s County Stakes over 1 1/8 miles of “good” turf at Laurel. The French-bred 6-year-old gelding also has placed in a pair of stakes at a mile on the grass since coming from his homeland to Maryland-based trainer Graham Motion.
Other intriguing possibilities in the King Edward include Treason and Town Cruise.
Treason has not won on turf since three starts from June to August two years ago but has emerged as a top-drawer Tapeta runner since coming into trainer Josie Carroll’s barn last year.
Town Cruise, the 2021 Woodbine Mile winner, got back on target after a subsequent six-race drought with a game win over Conglomerate in the $50,000 optional claimer last time out.
The $125,000 Sweet Briar Too, a six-furlong turf event for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, is also part of Saturday’s 10-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m.
FIELD FOR THE GRADE 2 $200,000 KING EDWARD
POST – HORSE – JOCKEY – TRAINER
1 – Pao Alto (FR) – Rafael Hernandez – Graham Motion
2 – Town Cruise – Keveh Nicholls – Brandon Greer
3 – The Minkster – Luis Contreras – Katerina Vassilieva
4 – Dancin in Da’nile – Declan Carroll – Gail Cox
5 – War Bomber (IRE) – Rico Walcott – Norm McKnight
6 – Shirl’s Speight – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Roger Attfield
7 – Treason – Kazushi Kimura – Josie Carroll
8 – Conglomerate (S) – Javier Castellano – Mark Casse
9 – Lucky Score – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse
10 – Bode’s Tipsy – Justin Stein – Santino Di Paola
11 – Haddassah – Gary Boulanger – Kevin Attard
FIELD FOR THE $125,000 SWEET BRIAR TOO
POST – HORSE – JOCKEY – TRAINER
1 – Clitheroe (GB) – Rafael Hernandez – Graham Motion
2 – Talk to Ya Later – Ryan Munger – Ian Black
3 – Hard Edge – Eswan Flores – Stuart Simon
4 – Run for the Hills – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse
5 – Forest Drift – Daisuke Fukumoto – Robert Tiller
6 – Vantarsi – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
7 – Canadiansweetheart – Leo Salles – Rico Lafond
Bill Tallon, for Woodbine Communications