By Woodbine Communications/ Chris Lomon
TORONTO – The Ontario Sire Heritage Series launched Saturday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack with a pair of $100,000 stakes, the Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
The five-furlong Inner Turf events are part of the Ontario Sire Heritage Series, an eight-leg stakes series open to Ontario sired 3-year-olds, to be contested at Woodbine and Fort Erie racetracks.
First up was the Lake Huron for sophomore colts and geldings.
Silent Reserve, fresh off a sparkling, six-length maiden-breaking score over the same surface and same distance on June 18, broke quickly and secured the lead, as Patches O’Houlihan tracked the pacesetter from second. Multiple stakes winner Poulin in O T sat third, with Kinetic Stone trailing in fourth through an opening panel in a brisk :21.37.
It was status quo for the quartet entering the turn for home, as Rafael Hernandez, who took over from Kazushi Kimura following a spill in the afternoon’s first race, and Silent Reserve looked to dash away from Patches O’Houlihan in early stretch.
Patches O’Houlihan, trained by Canadian Horse Racing inductee Robert Tiller for owner/breeder Frank Di Giulio, Jr., began to cut into the lead of his rival and mid-way down the lane took control, going on to notch a 1 ¼-length win in :56.49 over firm going.
Silent Reserve was second, a length in front of a late-charging Poulin in O T. Kinetic Stone was fourth. Awesome Bourbon was scratched.
“He is a good horse,” praised Fukumoto. “I just followed the speed. It was a question mark for me whether he likes grass or not, but when he broke, he was going good and I just followed the speed.”
It was the fourth win from five starts for Patches O’Houlihan, who came into the Lake Huron on a two-race win streak.
The son of Reload’s only previous 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.
“There was, definitely,” offered Tiller, of concerns running on the grass again. “And the five-eighths, honestly. He proved to me today that he’s a really good horse. I really believe he’s a good horse.”
Sent off as the 2-1 third choice, Patches O’Houlihan returned $6 for the win.
In the Georgian Bay, for 3-year-old fillies, 9-2 Souper Sunday powered home to record her third straight victory and first stakes triumph in a time of :57.24 over firm ground. The margin of victory was 2 ¼ lengths.
Trained by Steve Owens, who co-bred with Beverly Lewis and co-owns with Empress Stables, the dark bay filly was making her stakes debut and third start of the campaign.
After breaking on top, Souper Sunday yielded the lead to Cara Cara, who took her 10 rivals through an opening quarter in :21.86. Several riders were forced to check along the backstretch, but the frontrunners remained unaffected.
Souper Sunday, with Eswan Flores aboard, seized control, finding themselves a length on top at the stretch call, as a determined Cara Cara dug in gamely along the rail, while the duo of Flowers n’ Berries and Foolish Games had rallied into contention.
In the final yards, Souper Sunday pulled away to earn the win. Flowers ‘n Berries was a neck in front of Foolish Games for the runner-up spot. Cara Cara was a further neck back in fourth.
A long delay at the starting gate that saw one of her rivals hesitant to load didn’t affect Souper Sunday before the race got underway.
“She was standing pretty quiet in the gate,” said Flores. “I was very happy how she handled herself in there. Everything was playing great, even from the gate.”
Making her debut last June, Souper Sunday posted 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 then sent to the farm to regroup for her sophomore season.
It turned out to be a winning move by Owens, who has watched his filly go undefeated in three starts in 2023.
“Last year, she was growing, a 2-year-old with lots of aches and pains. Rushed her a little bit. In the end, we sent her to the farm. She came back in real good order.”
Saturday’s win was a special one for the multiple graded stakes-winning trainer.
“The Ontario sire program is what our family always looks for. We are Ontario breeders, and we try and support the industry the best we can.”
Souper Sunday, now 3-0-3 from eight starts, paid $11.70 for the win.