TORONTO, June 29, 2023 – Wonder Wheel, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies en route to honours as the Eclipse Award winner in her division last year, will be looking to revitalize a subpar sophomore campaign when she makes her local debut in Saturday’s Selene Stakes, at Woodbine.
The Selene, the major local prep for the July 23 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser, will share billing on the blockbuster Canada Day program with the Marine Stakes, the penultimate stakes step on the road to the August 20 King’s Plate. Both the Selene, which attracted 10 entrants, and the eight-deep Marine, are open Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile races for 3-year-olds.
Mark Casse, who conditions Wonder Wheel and also will field Solo Album, will be looking for a sixth straight and ninth overall Selene success. Patrick Husbands, aboard for five of those wins, will ride Wonder Wheel for the first time in what is also her debut on a synthetic surface.
Wonder Wheel, who had won Keeneland’s Grade 1 Alcibiades at 1 1/16 miles prior to her Breeders’ Cup tour de force, began her current season with a second-place finish in the mile and 40-yard Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Casse believed that effort would have Wonder Wheel primed for Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland, which in turn was to be her springboard to the Kentucky Oaks, only to watch her finish a non-threatening sixth in Lexington and then end a troubled ninth of 14 in the Louisville showpiece.
“I was really disappointed with her effort in the Ashland,” said the trainer, from his Ocala base. “And the Oaks was kind of a weird-run race. Then I wanted to get her up there and train her on the Tapeta. I just find that horses thrive at Woodbine, more than anywhere. I just kind of felt like we needed to get her back to square one, try to get her some confidence.”
Solo Album comes into the Selene off a front-running maiden score over 1 1/16 miles when returning to Woodbine for her sixth career start and third of this season.
“She’s a filly that’s kind of one speed, likes Tapeta, runs long,” said Casse. “She’s got a really big pedigree. If she could just get some black type, it would mean a lot for her in the future.”
Saffie Joseph, Jr., whose primary base is Gulfstream Park, has had Blind Spot and Be My Sunshine preparing for the Selene on site and is shipping up Honor D Lady.
Blind Spot finished first in the six-furlong Star Shoot on April 29 but was found to be guilty of interfering with the runner-up and had her number taken down.
The Maryland-bred won the listed Our Dear Peggy over a mile and 70 yards on Gulfstream’s Tapeta surface but Joseph expects the Selene to be a tougher spot.
“This is a different class,” he said.
The Kentucky-bred Be My Sunshine will be making her stakes and Tapeta debut after running well at both Gulfstream and Keeneland.
“She missed some time, and might be short a work or two, but I’m hoping she’ll run well,” said Joseph.
Honor D Lady ran well when shipping north last fall, ending a close third in the 1 1/16-mile Mazarine. The Kentucky-bred became a stakes winner this spring in the listed Honey Ryder, a one-mile turf race at the Hallandale Beach oval, before rallying to finish third there in the listed Martha Washington over 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic strip.
‘She’s going into this race with a good chance,” offered Joseph. “She got a little far back last time.”
The Woodbine Oaks eligibles in the field are Tito’s Calling, Friends for Life, Dolce Sopresa, Speed Trap and Fortyfiveseventy.
Twin City and Kaukokaipuu both broke through for their first stakes wins at the distance of seven furlongs last out and will be looking to use the Marine as a final stepping-stone to the King’s Plate.
The Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be run July 23 but trainers Stuart Simon and Ted Holder plan to bring their respective charges into the King’s Plate off a seven-week break.
Twin City had plenty of experience around two turns last year, graduating in his second start going long and then finishing a strong second in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity.
Following a winter in Ocala, Twin City returned to action here in the open King Corrie Stakes and prevailed by a scant nose under regular rider Gary Boulanger.
“He came back in March,” said Simon, who also owns Twin City in partnership with Brent, Russ, and Roy McClellan. “He’s a big horse, and he’s always been mentally mature and that’s the good part about him. In the Coronation, he was going good at the end. Distance isn’t an issue.”
Kaukokaipuu, conditioned by Holder for Culpepper Island Syndicate, failed to find the range in seven starts at 2, but did finish second on five occasions and opened up his sophomore campaign with another runner-up effort. His two starts since then have been impeccable, however, as Kaukokaipuu won his maiden in lengthy fashion and then was a smart winner of the Queenston while giving Holder his first career stakes score.
The Marine represents a change in plans for Kaukokaipuu, who was supplemented at a cost of $2,250.
“I was going to go to the Plate Trial, but with this horse as good as he is I decided not to wait,” said Holder, who also had Kaukokaipuu in Florida with a long-term eye toward to the King’s Plate.
“Off his last work, I don’t think the distance will be a problem. It was something special.”
With his new regular partner Rico Walcott aboard, Kaukokaipuu breezed six furlongs last Sunday in 1:12.40.
Velocitor, the Coronation Futurity winner, will be looking to rebound off a seventh-place King Corrie finish with fellow King’s Plate nominees Stayhonor Goodside, One Bay Hemingway and Simcoe also looking to polish their credentials.
American-bred shippers Turf King (IRE), who is sure to attract serious support with New York-based trainer Chad Brown and Woodbine’s leading rider Kazushi Kimura in his corner, and Kentucky invader Midnight Rising complete the lineup.
FIELD FOR THE $150,000 GRADE 3 SELENE STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Fortyfiveseventy – Ryan Munger – Barbara Minshall
2 – Friends for Life – Eswan Flores – Stuart Simon
3 – Honor D Lady – Edgard Zayas – Saffie Joseph, Jr.
4 – Dolce Sopresa – Justin Stein – Josie Carroll
5 – Be My Sunshine – Kazushi Kimura – Saffie Joseph, Jr.
6 – Wonder Wheel – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse
7 – Speed Trap – Luis Contreras – Josie Carroll
8 – Blind Spot – Rafael Hernandez – Saffie Joseph, Jr.
9 – Tito’s Calling – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Ross Armata, Jr.
10 – Solo Album – Sahin Civaci – Mark Casse
FIELD FOR THE $150,000 GRADE 3 MARINE
PP – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – One Bay Hemingway – Luis Contreras – Sid Attard
2 – Velocitor – Patrick Husbands – Kevin Attard
3 – Stayhonor Goodside – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Mark Casse
4 – Kaukokaipuu – Rico Walcott – Ted Holder
5 – Turf King (IRE) – Kazushi Kimura – Chad Brown
6 – Twin City – Gary Boulanger – Stuart Simon
7 – Midnight Rising – Reylu Gutierrez – Jordan Blair
8 – Simcoe – Rafael Hernandez – Katerina Vassilieva
Bill Tallon, for Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms