First Empire wins the Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine.
Prominent First Empire took the lead on the final corner and pushed Degree of Risk back to score by 1 ¾ length in Saturday’s $ 140,250 Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine Racecourse in Toronto, Ont.
The Soaring Free, a 6½-stage turf race for 2-year-olds, drew a field of six and kicked off the first of four-stakes back-to-back programs on the Toronto Oval on Queen’s Plate weekend.
First Empire, conditioned by Mark Casse, had finished fifth on their debut here on the Tapeta, but was then a leading winner on six turf stages with returning rider Patrick Husbands in irons.
“When I beat him in the morning he’s doing well but on the grass, as he’s shown in his last two races, he’s a different horse,” said Husbands. “I had so many horses swinging for the house. I knew it would take a very nice horse to beat him.
In the Soaring Free, First Empire squeezed the invading Indiana Heaven Street as he ran just outside through an opening quarterfinal in: 22.49 and led this one by a length so that he won half-time in: 44.37.
Degree of risk, invading Illinois for coach Eoin Harty, made his turf debut and impressed, finishing second, despite a green run in the lane.
Heaven Street finished third, 7 behind the finalist.
Twenty Four Mamba, who like First Empire is a son of Classic Empire, 2 years old, winner of the Eclipse prize trained by Casse, was still 3 ½ lengths in fourth position.
Concealed Carry never threatened to finish fifth and Silent Farewell, a troubled second behind First Empire on his debut here on August 1, failed to enter the contention as a 9-5 favorite and checked in. Lastly.
The final time was 1: 15.44.
Sent off as a 5-2 second pick, First Empire grossed $ 7.80 and posted an exacta of $ 53.70 on 9-1 Degree of Risk. Heaven Street, at 5-1, finished a trifecta at $ 97.05 ($ 1) and the superfecta with Twenty Four Mamba came down to $ 312.90 for $ 1.
First Empire, owned by Dick Bonnycastle’s Harlequin Ranches, is bred from the mare Macho Uno Silsita and is the first Stakes winner for his mother and first year sire. Bred by Saintsbury Farm, First Empire was a $ 60,000 yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale.
Casse won the Soaring Free last year with Gretzky the Great, who used the race as a stepping stone to success here in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes and was later honored as Canada’s Best Two-Year-Old. .
This year’s $ 400,000 Grade 1 Summer Stakes, a “win and you’re in” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, will take place at Woodbine on September 19th.
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