By Woodbine Communications/ Chris Lomon
TORONTO – A pair of Ontario-sired 3-year-old turf stakes, the $100,000 Thunder Bay, and $100,000 Lake Superior, both a component of the Ontario Sire Heritage Series, 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.
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.”
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