Stacked Deck, Canada’s reigning champion sprinter, battled gamely through Sunday’s $ 102,600 Ontario Jockey Club Handicap to score by 1.5 lengths.
Ridden by Rafael Hernandez for the first time, Stacked Deck broke alertly despite throwing his head in the air and moved quickly to the lead from his outside post in the field of seven. Stacked Deck soon was engaged by Puntrooksie, however, and the pair went as a team through a quarter in :22.53 and a half in :44.59 before trading punches in the stretch until the winner finally asserted his superiority. The final time for the six furlongs was 1:08.79.
Sweet Grass Creek stalked the pace from the inside and then moved off the rail for the stretch drive to finish third, 2 ½ lengths behind the runner-up.
Calgary Cat, the Sovereign Award-winning sprinter of 2015, lacked a serious closing kick and was just up for fourth, three-quarters of a length behind Sweet Grass Creek and a nose before european shipper Glorious Empire.
Goodoldhockeygame and Seafar rounded out the order of finish.
“Everything worked good,” said Hernandez, who has become a going concern in the local riding colony since moving his tack here in July.
“We got a good post; he broke perfect. I just let him run in the stretch.”
Stacked Deck’s performance was a relief for owner/trainer Bruce Lunsford and trainer Barbara Minshall as the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred had been scratched at the gate from his scheduled seasonal bow and then had troubled trips in both the Vigil and Connaught Cup.
The Ontario Jockey Club was Stacked Deck’s first start since June 5 and the time off appeared to have worked wonders.
“I love him to death, but he’s a difficult, difficult horse,” said Minshall. “But he’s been really good in the last month and I’m really, really happy with him.”
Stacked Deck was recording his eighth win from 20 career starts and has finished second or third on four other occasions while banking $ 584,998.
“He’s been a great horse for me,” said Lunsford. “I love coming up here. We’ve had pretty good luck in the last four years up here. I plan to keep coming and I hope I get a few more like this one.”
Stacked Deck returned $ 5.60, $ 3.30 and $ 2.70 as the 9-5 favorite and combined with 2-1 second choice Puntrooskie ($ 3.00, $ 2.20) for a 7-3 exactor of $ 13.50. Sweet Grass Creek ($ 2.70) completed a $ 1 triactor worth $ 57.60.
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