Lady Shipman takes on males in Highlander

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

June 30th, 2016

The Queen’s Plate undercard has an added allure Sunday, thanks to top turf sprinter Lady Shipman’s invading Woodbine for the C$200,000 Highlander (G2). Carded as the 4TH race, the Highlander kicks off a quartet of turf stakes building up to the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Lady Shipman will be facing males for the third time in her career, after a near-miss in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) and an honorable seventh (beaten three lengths) in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup night. Since returning from Dubai, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee has flaunted her class versus fellow distaffers in the May 1 License Fee at Belmont – where she blasted this six-furlong distance in 1:07.49 – and in the May 21 The Very One at Pimlico.

Sunday’s affair arguably stacks up as Lady Shipman’s best chance so far to beat the boys, since she had a tough trip in the Breeders’ Cup, and the Meydan straightaway wasn’t as suitable as barreling round a turn. And as if she needed any help, she gets in at a feathery 114 pounds under the Highlander’s conditions. Lady Shipman, who’ll also save ground from her rail post, has accordingly been installed as the even-money favorite with Joel Rosario.

Her most interesting opponent is Hootenanny, not so much on his spotty current form as for his back class as the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) hero. During his outstanding 2-year-old campaign for Wesley Ward, he also plundered the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot and finished a close second in a soggy Prix Morny (G1). Hootenanny has yet to regain those heights, racing only twice at three, and most recently disappointing when eighth as the favorite in the TwinSpires Turf Sprint (G3) on Kentucky Oaks Day. But the 10-1 chance must still be capable of better.

Former Ward pupil Green Mask, third in last year’s Al Quoz as well as the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, now adds blinkers in his third try for Brad Cox. Switching barns after failing by a nostril in the Elusive Quality in course-record time for seven furlongs on Belmont’s Widener turf, he’s been unplaced in his two ensuing starts. On past form, Green Mask is another to consider at 8-1.

Noteworthy among the locals are Something Extra and Passion for Action. Something Extra, the 2014 Highlander winner, was second to Ward’s Undrafted when defending his title in the Shakertown (G2) two back. Passion for Action, who defeated the comebacking Hootenanny in the April 9 Jacques Cartier on Woodbine’s Tapeta, has since landed the Vigil (G3) and finished runner-up in the Connaught Cup (G2). 

Two races later, Conquest Enforcer looms large in the C$100,000 Charlie Barley for 3-year-olds. Trained by Mark Casse for Conquest Stables, the Into Mischief colt romped in last fall’s Cup and Saucer over this course and returned with another dominant display in the May 21 Queenston on the Tapeta.

Both were restricted stakes, but the move to open company here shouldn’t faze Conquest Enforcer. Although he was fourth in his only prior attempt outside of the Canadian-bred ranks, that was an audacious career debut in the Summer (G2). He’s a different animal now. Casse reportedly thinks the world of him and even toyed with Saturday’s King Edward (G2) against older horses.

Conversely, stablemate Conquest Daddyo, who scored a career high in the Summer, has found life more difficult in the interim. A troubled fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, he was checked en route to his too-bad-to-be-true seventh in the April 24 Wando. The $350,000 son of Scat Daddy isn’t as forlorn a hope as his 20-1 odds imply, giving Casse a proper one-two punch here.

Hammers Vision was well beaten by both “Conquests” as a juvenile, but the Brian Lynch trainee has improved this season. He threatened in the nine-furlong Pennine Ridge (G3) at Belmont before wilting in the final furlong, and the cutback to a mile ought to help.

Wando winner Bear’sway was subsequently just denied in the Marine (G3), in which Wando runner-up Dragon Bay was a close fourth. Summer second Sky Marshal is eligible to factor if moving forward off his comeback, and his underachieving stablemate from the Barbara Minshall barn, Hollywood Hideaway, could be a reformed character in his first start as a gelding. Promising Uncle Guy also ships in from Churchill for Mike Maker and the Ramseys.

See also the previews for the two remaining turf stakes, the Dance Smartly (G2) and Singspiel (G3).

Play for 2 million points on Queen's Plate Day!

Lady Shipman photo courtesy Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue.