Toronto, Canada would be the place to be this Sunday if horseplayers were allowed in the stands. Woodbine Racetrack has an 11 race Sunday card that includes four Stakes competitions with at least $100,000 in prizemoney.
Race 5 is the Grade I, $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes. A group of eight will turn left twice in a 1 ½ mile race on the grass course. It's a long run. They don't run many like it at Woodbine. Last year's race saw a rabbit, COOLER MIKE race out to a big lead only to be tracked down to be beaten by 3/5 favorite OLD PERSIAN.
There won't be a 3/5 choice this year. COUNT AGAIN (PP: 8 ML 2-1) is the oddsmaker's morning line favorite and is coming off a Grade III win at 1 ¼ miles on Woodbine turf. He appears to the have the right running fit for a long-haul race as he likes to charge late.
Jockey Luis Contreras will try to capitalize on COUNT AGAIN's strong late pace figures, but he won't be alone. NAKAMURA (PP: 5 ML 3-1) has the strongest set of late pace numbers but finished a couple of lengths behind COUNT AGAIN in his last effort. It was his third race after a layoff and his worst outing of the three. His resume suggests he could bounce back today and bring the heat in the stretch, although he's never won at the distance in five tries, but is yet to miss the board with two seconds and a third.
SIR SAHIB (PP: 3 ML 7/2) finished between COUNT AGAIN and NAKAMURA in the Singspiel Stakes. He's another late flyer and will have jockey Justin Stein on the mount for the third time in his last 10 starts. Stein brough the horse home third by a neck and fourth in the previous two runs together. The jockey will likely need the perfect trip to wear the Northern Dancer crown as SIR SAHIB's speed figures show a consistent horse with limited upside. He runs the same race just about every time.
The trio of favored closers will all be trying to chase down ADMIRALTY PIER (PP: 7 ML 9/2). The five-year-old has been on the lead in five of his last six tries, second by a head in the other. He posted the highest, last race speed figure for this crew in a Grade I effort. However, he faded badly in the stretch, giving up the lead and finishing sixth of eight.
Jockey Steven Bahen should be able to take to the front again without much pressure as PEACE OF EKATI (PP: 2 ML 20-1) is the only other horse that might go out with ADMIRALTY PIER early. PEACE tried the wire to wire stuff in his last race, which was moved off the turf and onto the synthetic surface. However, that was only the third time in the last 10 starts that the horse was forwardly placed. PEACE OF EKATI is just as likely, maybe more, to be in the back than in the front.
Early pace will be the key to whether the 2020 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes looks a lot like last year's race. ADMIRALTY PIER is likely to race out to a sizeable lead with all the closers trying to track him down in the last ½ mile. If jockey Bahen can steal the first mile in more than one minute and 40 seconds, he'll have a chance to take his horse to the winners' circle. Otherwise, the 2020 Northern Dancer Stakes will be a replay of the 2019 version.
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