Neshama just holds for Woodbine Oaks triumph; Amis Gizmo takes Plate Trial

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Jen Caldwell

June 13th, 2016

Neshama wasn’t given much chance in Sunday’s $391,826 Woodbine Oaks, Canada’s classic race for three-year-old fillies, when sent off at 15-1, but the Sligo Bay filly dug deep with jockey Eurico Da Silva aboard and just kept her nose in front on the wire to deny 4-5 favorite Gamble’s Ghost.

Neshama was content to stalk the early pace set by Caren through splits of :23.75, :47.91 and 1:12.51 before beginning her move on the far turn. Gamble’s Ghost, on the other hand, was well back in eighth on the backstretch after breaking slow and was forced to go wide around the bend.

Upon hitting the lane, Gamble’s Ghost bumped with Crumlin Spirit before setting her sights on Neshama, who had slid on past Caren in deep stretch. The favorite gave it all she had but just could not catch the winner in time.

Neshama paid $32.30 after completing 1 1/8 miles over Woodbine’s all-weather Tapeta in 1:52.34. Trained by Catherine Day Phillips, Neshama is campaigned by Carnegie Hall Stable, Kingfield Racing Stable, Anderson Farms and John Fielding.

It was the first career Oaks win for both da Silva and Phillips.

“I had a very easy trip. It went well for me,” da Silva said.  “When Jesse Campbell asked his filly (Caren), she opened up a little bit and I thought I just wanted to keep going and maybe finish second. Then I saw (Caren) just stop and I saw a great chance to win the race. And she ran great. She dug in. She’s a nice filly. I am thrilled.”

Phillips saw early signs of quality from Neshama.

“She’s been a nice filly and acted like a racehorse really from the beginning,” the horsewoman said. “In the fall, she really came into her own and this spring she’s been very professional. She really enjoys her job.”

As for the Queen’s Plate, a race fillies have won six times since 1956, Phillips was non-committal.

“I think we’ll enjoy this and we’ll discuss it Monday and Tuesday,” she said.

Gamble’s Ghost finished two lengths up on Caren, who took third by a length over Crumlin Spirit.

Jockey Luis Contreras, who was aboard the favorite, said a clean trip would have got Gamble’s Ghost an Oaks victory.

“I was on the rail where I didn't want to be, but I had to stay there,” he explained. “When I tried to tip out to make my move, I could see the opening but everyone was trying to move at the same time and horses were tiring in front of me. When I made my move, if nothing happened, we would have won.”

Neshama broke her maiden in her second outing last year at Woodbine and closed out 2015 with a nose second while making her stakes bow in the November 14 South Ocean Stakes.

The bay filly opened her sophomore season with a fifth-placing in the Lady Angela Stakes on May 1 but returned just 17 days later to take an allowance by a quarter-length. She improved her career line to read 6-3-1-0, $300,079 on Sunday.

While Contreras was unable to secure the victory in the Woodbine Oaks, the rider found himself visiting the winner’s circle one race prior aboard Ivan Dalos’ Amis Gizmo after taking the $117,361 Plate Trial Stakes.

Conquest Cavalry set fractions of :23.98, :48.16 and 1:13.06 while Amis Gizmo settled in midpack. Shakhimat, the near even-money favorite, kept pressure on the leader while in second.

Upon hitting the turn, Shakhimat found himself two wide but still wrested away control of the race from Conquest Cavalry. His lead was short lived though as Amis Gizmo rallied on the outside and took command in upper stretch.

The Josie Carroll trainee pulled away to score by 2 1/2 lengths over Shakhimat, finishing nine furlongs on the Tapeta in 1:52.12. Amis Gizmo paid $6.80 as the near 5-2 second choice. Sir Dudley Digges followed in third while Conquest Cavalry was forced to settle for fourth.

“Yeah it’s really new (to come from off-the-pace),” Contreras said. “This horse was perfect. He was so nice and calm and relaxed. I could do anything with him today.

“After the break, I took a little bit of a hold with my horse and I saw Shakhimat was in front. I just wanted to stay close and be right there any time we wanted to make a move.”

Emma-Jayne Wilson, aboard Shakhimat, was happy with her mount’s performance while acknowledging the winner.

"We had a real nice go,” she said. “He switched off real nice and moved along well down the backside. We moved into good position around the turn and I could feel the pressure coming down on him around the turn. He fought hard but he just got beat by a better horse today."

Amis Gizmo is now 5-0-0 from six career starts and has banked $332,543 in lifetime earnings. The chestnut son of Giant Gizmo scored in the Simcoe Stakes last September while debuting against stakes rivals. He followed up with wins in the Bull Page, Frost King and Kingarvie Stakes during his juvenile season.

Amis Gizmo just suffered his first loss when fifth in the Wando Stakes while making his sophomore bow on April 24 last out. Sunday’s victory could see the three-year-old made the favorite for the July 3 Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.

“We found he had a little bit of a problem (after the Wando Stakes) and there was an excuse for him to run as bad as he did. So now that we’ve got it figured out, we’re back in business,” Dalos said. "I was surprised (at how easily he won) because Shakhimat is a really nice horse, so to beat him the way we did means something.”

Also at Woodbine on Sunday, Bill Crager and Paul Hondros’ Miss Katie Mae earned her first stakes win with a three-quarter length victory in the $80,274 Alywow S. under Javier Castellano.

The Graham Motion-trained sophomore ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the firm turf in 1:16.10. The Irish-bred daughter of Dark Angel, who is Group 3-placed in her native country, was fourth in the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico last out on Black-Eyed Susan Day, May 20.

Neshama & Amis Gizmo photos courtesy of WEG/Michael Burns Photography