Bangkok, a 17-1 longshot, wore down defending champ Melmich in the late going to take Sunday’s Grade 3, $ 150,000 Valedictory Stakes, the final stakes event of Woodbine’s 2016 thoroughbred racing season.
It was a gutsy effort by the Street Hero gelding and winning rider Emma-Jayne Wilson, as the duo rallied stoutly down the lane to best 2-5 mutuel favourite Melmich, and in doing so, netted the bay his first added-money score. Ethical Funds was third.
Bangkok stopped the teletimer in 2:59.88.
Trained by Phil Gracey for owner-breeders Gail Wood and Dr. Ruth Barbour, the Ontario-bred now has four wins from 25 career starts. It was the first stakes appearance for the five-year-old since a fourth-place finish in the 2014 Breeders’, third jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown series.
It was Decision Day who took early control of the 1 ¾-mile feature, with Ethical Funds tracking in second, as Bangkok settled in third with Melmich just to his outside.
After opening splits of :26.31 and :52:23, leading jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva and Melmich confronted Decision Day as the field hit the wire with one lap to go. The pair continued to slug out along the backstretch while Wilson kept Bangkok in touch with the leaders.
When Melmich seized control as the field straightened for home, Bangkok responded and continued to cut into his advantage down the lane, eventually gaining the upper hand for the half-length win.
It was also the fourth Valedictory crown for Wilson. She won the 2006 edition with Marsh Side, the 2012 running with Heathcote and guided Turkish to a victory in 2014.
“I’ve had a little bit of luck in this race,” she said. “It’s one of my favourite races to ride. It takes a horse with a lot of stamina to get it done and Bangkok had that today. It was a big effort and I’m really happy for the owners and the trainer.”
Gracey was happy to see his hard-knocking charge get rewarded with a stakes triumph.
“We were going to be really happy with second, but he just kept on running,” said the veteran conditioner. “He’s a nice, little horse.”
Bangkok paid 37.60, $ 7.40 and $ 4.40, combining with Melmich ($ 2.40, $ 2.10) for a $ 96.50 (5-4) exactor. A 5-4-6 triactor (Ethical Funds, $ 6.70 to show) was worth $ 531.80, while a $ 1 Superfecta [5-4-6-3 (English Illusion)] came back $ 1250.50.
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