Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Canadian classic winner Sir Dudley Digges will attempt to return to the winner’s circle for the first time since annexing the $ 1 million Queen’s Plate – the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown – when the son of Gio Ponti goes to post as the horse to beat in the 31st renewal of the $ 75,000 Woodchopper Stakes over about one mile on the Stall-Wilson turf course. A full field of 14, plus one also eligible, are slated to compete in the final turf stakes restricted to sophomores.
Trained by Mike Maker, Sir Dudley Digges enters off a fifth-place finish – beaten a mere length – in the Grade III Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12. Said effort was his first since competing in all three Canadian Triple Crown races, including a solid second in the $ 500,000 Breeders’ Stakes over 1 1/2 grassy miles. Shortening up in trip, he gets the services of Florent Geroux from post eight.
Defeating him last time was Alice Mettler’s Joel Berndt-trained Hay Dakota, who defied his 29-1 odds with a neck win in the Commonwealth under Denny Velazquez. The son of Haynesfield has been consistent, finishing in the money in all seven of his turf starts, including four victories and a neck third in the $ 200,000 Mystic Lake Derby on Aug. 27. Velazquez has the return call for the late-running bay gelding.
Winner of the Mystic Lake Derby was four-time stakes winner One Mean Man, who campaigns for trainer and co-breeder Bernie Flint and co-owner and co-breeder Ron Hillerich. A flashy gray full-brother to multiple graded stakes-winning turf filly Mizz Money, the son of Mizzen Mast is 3-for-5 at this trip, owns a stakes victory over this surface and has proven himself against the best turf sophomores when fourth – beaten 1¼ lengths – in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes back in August. Robby Albarado rides from post three.
Lloyd Madison Farms IV’s Zapperini has been nothing if not consistent against these types in his three runs on the turf. The Greg Foley trainee was fourth, a nose ahead of Sir Dudley Digges last out in the Commonwealth – a race in which One Mean Man finished seventh – and was 1½ lengths astern said roan rival in a rained-off $ 100,000 Jefferson Cup two back on Oct. 1, also under the Twin Spires. Brian Hernandez, Jr., rides the son of Ghostzapper, who broke his maiden last January over the local dirt, for the first time from post six.
Ikerrin Road (IRE) represents Team Tepin connections of owner Robert E. Masterson and trainer Mark Casse. The son of Iffraaj (GB) was sixth last out, beaten 1½ lengths in the Commonwealth’s quagmire photo-finish in what was his second domestic start following seven starts in England under the tutelage of John Quinn. David Flores picks the mount on the tactical bay colt from post 11.
The remainder of the field for the Woodchopper, which runs as the sixth of 11 New Year’s Eve races, is comprised of Explosive Kowboy(Miguel Mena, rail), Inside Straight (Geovanni Franco, post four), Royal Lion (Chya Johnstone, post five), Mav (Shaun Bridgmohan, post seven), Wildcat Wish (Luis Negron, post nine), Cordon (Alexander Reznikov, post 10), Way Striking (Richard Eramia, post 12), Tiznoble (Mitchell Murrill, post 13) and Dolphus (Gabriel Saez, post 14). Seeking the Soul (Colby Hernandez, 15) is also eligible.
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