By Woodbine Communications/ Chris Lomon
TORONTO, October 25, 2023 – Gradevole, a debut winner, wades into stakes action in Saturday’s $100,000 South Ocean at Woodbine.
Trained by Patrick Dixon for owner and breeder Colebrook Farms, the daughter of Danish Dynaformer-Congeniality rallied smartly to win her debut, a 5 ½-furlong Tapeta race on September 14.
After getting away last of five, Gradevole engaged her rivals three-wide at the three-furlongs pole and loomed a major threat turning for home. The bay was able to wear down the frontrunner to notch a one-length score in a time of 1:06.58.
“The thought was that she would go out and get some experience,” said Dixon, who recorded his first career stakes win on October 22 when Perfect Crime took the $100,000 Overskate. “I really liked the other filly, Working Holiday, that we had in there. Turning for home, I thought, ‘Wow… Gradevole might actually win this race.’ And that is what she did.”
Gradevole has had a steady work tab in the leadup to the South Ocean, a 6 ½-furlong Tapeta event for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies, including a pair of four-furlong breezes, :52.00 on October 8 and :49.60 on October 14.
What the filly lacks in size is offset by a strong-willed mindset, Dixon noted.
“She was broken late at the farm because she was small. When I watched her in the stall, she caught my eye because she was really upset because everyone else was being broken except for her. She used to rear up on the bars and put her two front feet on them, and in a standing position, would watch us ride the other horses. She used to get very upset. When we broke her, it happened very quickly. It was as though she had watched the other horses being ridden. I brought her to Woodbine from the farm a little bit later, but as soon as she got here, she wanted to keep up with everyone else. She is small, but she is very mighty. I remember thinking, ‘This little thing has grit.’ We were all impressed.”
Dixon was assistant trainer to Ashlee Brnjas (who passed away in 2021) when the latter trained Gradevole’s dam Congeniality.
The daughter of Signature Red-Nicola’s Nickers went 7-6-4 from 35 career starts.
“This filly Gradevole, she is gritty just like her mother. Congeniality would just grind out wins. If we were having a bad month, I would always feel better when Congeniality would run. She would always step up for us. She definitely passed along that grit and fight to her baby.”
“I used to tell other people in our barn to watch how upset she would get when we would ride the other horses, that she felt like that,” continued Nixon. “And now, here she is.”
Gradevole, an Italian term that translates to “pleasant,” will be ridden by Ryan Munger. Regular rider Rico Walcott is recovering from a broken collarbone suffered in a racing accident in late September.
Oswald Jackson is the groom.
Other contenders include Lady Wellington, a debut winner on September 23, Muskoka Stakes winner Hurricane Clair, and Victorian Queen Stakes runner-up Olivia Rose, cross-entered in the Frost King.
South Ocean, who went on to become a top broodmare, was a dual stakes winner, capturing the 1969 Yearling Sales Stakes and winning the premier race for fillies in 1970, the Canadian Oaks, defeating future Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Fanfreluche. Her two-year career race record consisted of 22 starts with 17 in the money finishes and purse earnings of $70,147.
$100,000 South Ocean (Race 10)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Lady Wellington – Rafael Hernandez – Dale Desruisseaux
2 – Vandoo – Luis Contreras – Kevin Attard
3 – Red Eleanor – Patrick Husbands – Angus Buntain
4 – Fourfiftyfour – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Barbara Minshall
5 – Olivia Rose – Kazushi Kimura – Mark Casse
6 – Hurricane Clair – Sahin Civaci – Martin Drexler
7 – Gradevole – Ryan Munger – Patrick Dixon