Rafael Hernandez guides Moira to landslide win in Woodbine Oaks
Moira, under Rafael Hernandez, looked easy as she won the 67th $500,000 Woodbine Oaks race for Canadian-bred fillies on Sunday at Woodbine.
Trained by Kevin Attard for owner X-Men Racing LLC, Madaket Stables LLC and SF Racing LLC, Moira took the lead around the corner to head home, then easily pulled away from the field en route to a score of 10 ¾ length and a possible date in the Queen’s Plate, set for August 21 at the Toronto Racecourse.
If Saturday’s performance is any indication of what could happen a month from now, the Ghostzapper filly’s connections are undoubtedly smiling.
Loaded Vixen, completed for the race, was put forward by Patrick Husbands, with apprentice Chad Brown Sahlabiya settling in second and Maccool’s Girl in third thanks to an opening quarter clocked in :23.54 , while Moira was positioned in seventh place in the 10 horsepower field.
It was status quo for the top three at halftime achieved in: 47.34, as Hernandez kept Moira, now sixth, unimpeded and running comfortably.
By the time the peloton made their way around the turn home, Moira was gobbling up ground and sliding towards the leaders, looking like she had plenty left in the tank.
And as her rivals soon found out, she absolutely did.
Up five lengths when calling Robert Geller, in 1:36.85, Moira dumped him down the lane, the tied-money pick picking up the easiest of the wins. In the final strides, Hernandez emphatically pointed out the filly, who now has three wins and a second in four career starts.
Sister Seagull climbed from afar to secure second place, while Sahlabiya finished third, a nose ahead of Souper Flashy, another Attard trainee.
The last race time on the Tapeta surface was 1:49.78.
“She pressed the button on the first corner,” Hernandez said. “We just sat there and saved as much ground as we could and made our move backwards. I knew horses were going to pull up in front of me, so I just tried to pull him away from them. By three eighths, I was already where I wanted to be. On my way home, I just talked to her and said, ‘Come on Moira, it’s all about you. Go and get it.’ And she just exploded.
“I have to give a huge thank you to this excellent group, the owners, for giving me the opportunity to look back on this incredible filly. From the first day I rode in the morning I was impressed. Today she showed up. She just played with the rest of the field.
Before the race, it was the horseshoes that changed the pre-race game plan.
“It was crazy,” Attard began. “You know, she was always a bit anxious in the paddock. We schooled her a lot and she just had a little episode and unfortunately she stepped on her back foot and kind of knocked over one shoe and bent the other shoe. The paddock blacksmith tried to adjust and fix it. I appreciate his efforts. So we chose to run her without the rear shoes. I wasn’t too concerned that it was a synthetic surface. But obviously you’re not used to it, so it’s always kind of in your head anyway. She’s a classy horse and I’ve always had a high opinion of her, and she obviously raced towards that today.
Now, the decision to run in the $1 Million Queen’s Plate will be a topic of conversation for the next few days.
“We’ve discussed it, we’ve spaced this run with the possibility that if things go well today, we might see it there,” said Attard, who won his second straight Oaks after winning the last year with Munnyfor Ro. “We’ll have a little chat about it. And as long as she’s doing well, I’m sure we’re willing to give it a try.
X-Men Racing’s Donato Lanni will take a wait-and-see approach with his second star, which brought in $4.
“It will be up to her and Kevin. It might be great to be in this race again,” he said. “The fillies have already won, but we are so lucky to be here today. So let’s take it one race at a time and thank you for Woodbine. You’re doing a great job here and it’s a great place to come.
The Woodbine Oaks served as a stepping stone to Queen’s Plate for fillies. Oaks-Plate champions include Holy Helena (2017), Lexie Lou (2014), Inglorious (2011), and Dancethruthedawn (2001). In 2018, Oaks runner-up Wonder Gadot won the Queen’s Plate.
Adena Springs bred Moira in Ontario from Unbridled’s mare Song Devine Aida. Hidden Brook sold her to Lanni’s X-Men Racing for $150,000 at the September 2020 Keeneland Yearling Sale.
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