Munnyfor Ro came over to the Woodbine paddock with her two bodyguards on Saturday, necessary because she’s quickly becoming the Brink’s truck of the Woodbine backstretch.
And after winning the $250,400 Wonder Where Stakes, third jewel of the filly Triple Crown, she’s a top candidate for honours as Canada’s top 3-year-old filly. Some say, horse of the year, too.
Bet down to 6 to 5, Munnyfor Ro never saw the rail. Far from it. She travelled along the backstretch as if she was in the midst of a beehive, fillies humming all around her, bumbled up with the slow pace, led by 66 to 1 shot Youens, who got the first quarter in 26.44, the half in 52.44.
Munnyfor Ro was in a phalanx of four racing side-by-side behind the leaders, with Miss Marie (15 to 1) on the rail, Il Malocchio (2 to 1 after winning the second jewel, the Bison City Stakes on Aug. 28) in the two-path, then Munnyfor Ro, and to the outside of all of them: Cielo d’Oro, (9 to 1, after being third in her only previous stakes attempt, the Bison City.)
The absolutely intrepid Cielo d’Oro moved well ahead of Munny, who eventually fell furthest back in the phalanx. But then, jockey Justin Stein (Munny’s rider for all of her Canadian starts) made a move before the final turn.
As it happened, Youens, ridden by Jeffrey Alderson, hung on fiercely despite her odds but bore out around the final turn, taking Emmeline, Cielo d’Oro, then Munnyfor Ro, too, with her. And that left Miss Marie to slip up to the lead unimpeded at the rail, where she had been the entire race.
But down the middle of the track came Munnyfor Ro, sweeping past them all in an energetic run to win by 1 ½ lengths in 2:05.36 for the distance on a turf course rated “good.”
The stretch charge with Miss Marie on the rail, Munnyfor Ro on the outside. Cielo d’Oro outside of her, again.
In the same afternoon, at Belmont Park in New York, Jack Christopher will go into the Breeders Cup Juvenile as the favourite after having won the Champagne Stakes in only his second start. He and Munnyfor Ro have one thing in common: they are both offspring of Munnings, a son of Speightstown.
The Raroma Stable (Rajendra Maharajh) bought Munnyfor Ro for $65,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale two years ago.
“Sometimes, when you are the best horse, you’ve got to put them in the clear and that’s just what Justin did today,” said trainer Kevin Attard, who earlier this season had won the first jewel, the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks with Munnyfor Ro. She then took on the colts in the $1-million Queen’s Plate and finished fourth, beaten only by 1 ¾ lengths after running into traffic and being bumped. The Wonder Where was her first race since the Plate on Aug. 22.
“I thought she’d blossomed a lot since her race in the Queen’s Plate,” Attard said. “She kept good weight, possibly put on some weight. She’s matured from a physical standpoint and she trained really well heading into this race. This was a race that Raj wanted to target from the get-go. It was just nice to see it all come together today and get the job done.”
Attard has had a splendid season, and sits second in the Woodbine trainer standings behind perennial leader Mark Casse. With half the number of starts as Casse, Attard has won 31 races and about $2-million in purses in the shortened season.
Attard also won the Wonder Where last year with Merveilleux.
Stein, who has a close runner-up in the jockey’s race last season, had a slow start this season, but has clawed his way back up to fourth place in races won and second in money won behind Kazushi Kimura.
Stein, who was recently married and has a young son, Ben, said that Munnyfor Ro “was all racehorse.
And she raced as well on the turf course of the Wonder Where as she had on the Tapeta of the Oaks and Plate. “She felt the same, just that nice, efficient stride, and that strong kick down the stretch,” he said. “Just reading the form, you could see there was no real speed, and we were forwardly placed. She was on the bridle and I just had to settle her into stride and wait to turn her loose.”
To celebrate the win, Stein did a flying dismount, in the vein of Frankie Dettori and Avelino Gomez. He said it was the first time he did it with such commitment, and that he had been inspired by Dettori’s leap a few weeks ago at Woodbine.
Youens, a daughter of U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, held on for fifth. (Bred by Sam-Son Farm, she brought $250,000 in the Kentucky sales ring as a yearling and is now trained by Angus Buntain.)
Cielo d’Oro gets the prize for the furthest trip to the wire. Although Munnyfor Ro spent a lot of her time running three-wide in the race, Cielo d’Oro ran 43 feet further, hung four-wide for most of the trip. Incredibly, Munnyfor Ro went around her on the final turn.
Attard also finished fourth with 22 to 1 shot Bequia.
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