Passion for Action prevails in Highlander; Lady Shipman fifth

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

July 3rd, 2016

The Queen’s Plate Day stakes action opened with an upset, as 1-2 favorite Lady Shipman weakened to fifth behind the 6-1 Passion for Action in the $173,777 Highlander (G2).

Trained by Michael De Paulo for owner/breeder Ben Hutzel, Passion for Action was notching his third stakes win of the Woodbine season. The 4-year-old Speightstown colt captured the April 9 Jacques Cartier and May 7 Vigil (G3), both on the new Tapeta, before finishing second in the grassy Connaught Cup (G2) June 5. That form looked even better when Connaught Cup winner Dimension came back to surprise Saturday’s King Edward (G2) at 17-1, and Passion for Action made it a double here.

Lady Shipman appeared to be in a good spot at the quarter-mile split of :21.99 on the firm turf. Jockey Joel Rosario was able to angle her off the rail and into a prompting second on the outer flank of pacesetter Something Extra. In the process, Lady Shipman was involved in a little scrimmaging to secure that position, muscling her way through to keep Green Mask parked in the wider path.

The first sign of trouble for the odds-on favorite came at the head of the stretch. Accosting Something Extra through a half in :44.44, Lady Shipman would have been expected to draw off. But she was making hard work of actually getting past him. Green Mask, who was traveling conspicuously well, had little difficulty in surging past them both by the five-furlong split in :55.82.

While that ordinarily might have been the winning move, Passion for Action was having none of it. At the tail of the field early, he peeled out down the lane, took off, and nabbed Green Mask by a neck. Passion for Action negotiated six furlongs in 1:08.05 and gave jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva his third straight win on the card.

Lady Shipman could not hang onto a minor award either, as Something Extra battled back to take third and Hootenanny closed mildly for fourth. She wound up fifth in a three-way photo, the worst result of her career in North America. Her only other unplaced effort, a seventh in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup night, was arguably more meritorious as it came versus a deep international field on a straightaway.

Considering that Lady Shipman had beaten both Green Mask and Something Extra when she was a close runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), she ran well below form Sunday. Admittedly, Green Mask was a rattling third over shorter at Keeneland, suggesting he could have overtaken her with more ground. Yet the point remains that she ran a much better race there than she did here. It’s unlikely that the long Woodbine stretch played a meaningful role, since she could never establish separation. She was also effectively beaten before that sixth furlong came into play, so it would be too easy to claim she needs a shorter trip versus males. Just an off day at the office? Or something else?

Passion for Action, who also scored in the 2014 Cup and Saucer and placed second to eventual Canadian champion sprinter Stacked Deck in last November’s Kennedy Road (G2), now sports a mark of 16-6-4-1, $603,641. Hutzel paid tribute to him in the winner’s circle, hailing him for having the most heart of any horse he’s had.

The story was happily different for the 1-2 favorite in the $92,309 Charlie Barley S., where Conquest Enforcer lived up to billing in wire-to-wire fashion. Highly regarded by trainer Mark Casse, the Into Mischief colt was on cruise control for much of the way. Jockey Patrick Husbands appeared to be work-riding as he was nearly standing in the irons through fractions of :23.40 and :46.54. Conquest Enforcer had to be kept to task down the stretch, with the 51-1 Springhouse a persistent presence, but he always looked like having the race in the bag. The winner's final time for the turf mile was 1:33.63.

Conquest Stables and Casse nearly had the exacta when deep-closing Conquest Daddyo just missed overtaking Springhouse. The margin was about a pixel. That was a welcome form turnaround for Conquest Daddyo, who hadn’t hit the board since his victory in last year’s Summer. Casse indicated that the Breeders’ Stakes, the third jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown over 1 1/2 miles on turf, is his target. On this evidence, the son of Scat Daddy will be peaking.

Conquest Enforcer’s only career loss came in his debut – in the Summer no less, where he finished fourth. It’s a measure of his home reputation that Casse saw fit to pitch the unraced colt into a Grade 2, Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” right off the bat. He’s been unbeatable since, crushing the October 11 Cup and Saucer and the May 21 Queenston on the Tapeta in his sophomore bow. The Charlie Barley marked his first score versus open company, and it won't be his last.

Photo courtesy WEG/Michael Burns Photography