Nothing will be easy Sunday for Zagora at Woodbine

Welcome to Canada!

The current exchange rate for winning a Grade I in the U.S. is plus-six p


Welcome to Canada!

The current exchange rate for winning a Grade I in the U.S. is plus-six pounds.

And the run out of the nine-furlong chute at Woodbine?

That’ll look a lot like the crazy bottleneck at customs on Sunday.

At least it will if you’re a filly named Zagora.

Despite topweight of 124 pounds and the unfortunate post No. 13 in a 14-horse field, she’s the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the nine-furlong Grade II Canadian on Sunday’s Woodbine Mile card for trainer Chad Brown.

That’s what can happen when you win a race like the Diana at Saratoga Race Course, as Zagora did on July 30, carrying 118, to give the 32-year-old Mechanicville nat­ive the first Grade I victory of his career as a head trainer.

This race will be a steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf for Zagora, one of two former European runners that Brown has pointed toward that race, along with Beverly D. winner Stacelita.

He may not like the conditions she faces in the Canadian, but he likes the condition she’s in.

“Yeah, I wasn’t thrilled with the post position or the fact that we’re gaining weight,” Brown said from Toronto on Friday. “I guess that’s to be expected, but it seemed like a little much. We’re gaining six pounds, and that’s a lot, but she’s doing well.”

Zagora will carry as much as 11 pounds more than others in the Canadian field.

Among those whom Zagora will face is Shared Account (8-1), who won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in 2010. She’s raced just once in 2011, a fourth to No Explaining in the Gallorette on the Preakness undercard.

Zagora will be making her sixth start in the U.S. since coming from France, and her fifth for Brown since being sent to him by owner Martin Schwartz last winter.

He wants to keep Zagora and Stac­elita separated until the Breeders’ Cup and hasn’t decided yet if he’ll try to sneak in another start for Zag­ora before November.

Stacelita is scheduled to run in the Flower Bowl on the Jockey Club Gold Cup card at Belmont Park on Oct. 1.

“I didn’t have many other options [for Zagora],” Brown said. “It depends on this race. I would probably look at the E.P. Taylor [in October at Woodbine] if she likes the turf up here and handles the ship OK. If not, I have no problem training her up to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Zagora has been productive in the U.S. despite only having won once, by 11⁄2 lengths over Aruna in the Diana.

She’ll retain the services of jockey Javier Castellano for the second race in a row.

As bad as the No. 13 post sounds, it may be mitigated by the fact that Woodbine’s outside track is the mile-and-a-half E.P. Taylor turf course, with the synthetic “main” track inside of that.

That means that the Canadian field will start out of a nine-furlong chute and head straight down the long backstretch, so at least Zagora and Castellano won’t have to face an early turn from way out there.

“We’ll try to save ground when possible,” Brown said. “A lot of it depends on what everybody else does. Javier rode her great in the Diana, so I don’t have to tell him anything.”

Brown was already in Canada on Friday because he’ll also saddle Dayatthespa today in the Grade III Natalma at a mile on the turf for 2-year-old fillies.

Dayatthespa jumps right into graded stakes company off a career debut win at Saratoga, by four lengths in a turf sprint on Aug. 4.

“She had been training very well. She lived up to what I expected that day,” Brown said. “I kind of targeted this race because I liked the fact that it was a one-turn mile as opposed to two turns.”

Like Zagora, Dayatthespa will have just one horse to her outside in the gate. She’s 12-1 in the 13-horse field.


Winter Memories, who was upset at odds of 2-5 in the Grade II Lake Placid at Saratoga, will have a new rider when she goes to post in the Grade I Garden City at Belmont today.

Jose Lezcano is out, and Castellano is in.

The 3-year-old filly turf star exploded to an eye-opening 41⁄2-length win in the Lake George early in the Saratoga meet, but got boxed in in the Lake Placid and had to try to finish on the inside.

She finished fourth behind Hungry Island, who is back for the Garden City, as well as the only other filly to win a race that had Winter Memories in the field, More Than Real.

More Than Real beat Winter Memories in the Breeders’ Cup Juv­enile Fillies Turf, also with Lezcano aboard, and also facing traffic trouble.

“I would like for her to make amends for her last race,” trainer Jimmy Toner told the New York Racing Association. “I certainly don’t want to take anything away from Hungry Island, who ran a great race. I just hope she can run her race, is all.”

Despite the loss, Winter Mem­ories is the 8-5 favorite in the Garden City, and Hungry Island is 3-1.

More Than Real will break from the No. 1 post and is 8-1 after finishing third in the Lake George, her second start of 2011.

She was sent to Ascot in England for a stakes in June and was 11th.

“She looks as good as I’ve ever seen her,” said Whit Beckman, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “The Lake Placid was her first race since the disappointment in England; hopefully, she will improve off that.”

The Garden City will be shown live during a 5-5:30 p.m. broadcast on MSG Plus.


The $1 million Grade I Woodbine Mile has drawn a loaded field of 12 with some international flavor for what is a Breeders’ Cup Mile qual­ifier through the “Win and You’re In” series.

Courageous Cat, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, is the 3-1 favorite off two straight wins, in the Grade III Poker at Belmont and by a neck over Caracortado in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park.

He won the Grade II Hall of Fame at Saratoga last year and has done little wrong in the last 15 months other that a foray to Meydan for the Dubai Duty Free in March, when he was ninth.

Also in the field is Turallure, who is coming off a win at 9-1 in the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga after finishing fourth to Sidney’s Candy in the Fourstardave.

Court Vision, who hasn’t won since last year’s Woodbine Mile, is 10-1 and will break from the outside.


On Monday, 2010 Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly Awesome Feather worked for the third straight week following a minor setback, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.98 on the Belmont Park main track after a pair of four-furlong works on the training track.

She has yet to make her 2011 debut because of a tendon problem, but she’s getting closer.

The undefeated Awesome Feather was sent to Brown’s barn after being purchased by Frank Stronach for $2.3 million following her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies victory, her sixth win of 2010, to lock up the div­ision championship.

“Awesome Feather is doing well,” Brown said. “We haven’t picked a race yet. She’s week-to-week. The earliest we would try to race her is something in October.”


Ben’s Cat has an automatic spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint based on his “Win and You’re In” victory in the Grade III Turf Monster at Parx on Labor Day, but is not nominated.

Trainer King Leatherbury, the 78-year-old legend of the Maryland circuit, is seeking investors to pony up the $100,000 fee to get his homebred in the race.

“I have one guy from California interested,” Leatherbury told the Laurel Park PR staff. “He would get his $100,000 back if we finished in the top three. We would split whatever is left over. If the horse wins or finishes second, everyone is happy. It would be a tremendous human interest story, with us having to buy our way into the race.”

A victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint returns $600,000.

The 5-year-old Ben’s Cat has won 12 of 17 starts, including seven stakes. He had to recover from a broken pelvis before he made his maiden debut at 4, then began his career with eight straight wins.

Among the horses he beat in the Turf Monster was 2010 BC Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge.


Trainer Wesley Ward has 999 career wins, after 13-1 Pleasant Prince caught 3-5 Rail Trip in the Pot O’Luck at Belmont Park on Thursday.

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