By Sean Morris

Sir Sahib garners our attention in the Northern Dancer Turf

By Sean Morris
The Northern Dancer Turf is one of two Grade I's at Woodbine this Sunday
The Northern Dancer Turf is one of two Grade I's at Woodbine this Sunday

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Northern Dancer Turf Stakes Racecard

8
PP 8

Count Again

  • Age: 5 /
  • Jockey: L. Contreras /
  • Trainer: G. Cox /
Morning Line Odds
5
PP 5

Nakamura

  • Age: 5 /
  • Jockey: K. Kimura /
  • Trainer: H. Motion /
Morning Line Odds
3
PP 3

Sir Sahib

  • Age: 5 /
  • Jockey: J. Stein /
  • Trainer: K. Attard /
Morning Line Odds
7
PP 7

Admiralty Pier

  • Age: 5 /
  • Jockey: S. Bahen /
  • Trainer: B. Minshall /
Morning Line Odds
1
PP 1

Say the Word

  • Age: 5 /
  • Jockey: E. Wilson /
  • Trainer: G. Cox /
Morning Line Odds
6
PP 6

Woodbridge

  • Age: 6 /
  • Jockey: S. Civaci /
  • Trainer: M. Keogh /
Morning Line Odds
2
PP 2

Peace of Ekati

  • Age: 5 /
  • Jockey: D. Fukumoto /
  • Trainer: A. Bjnjas /
Morning Line Odds
4
PP 4

Jungle Fighter

  • Age: 4 /
  • Jockey: R. Hernandez /
  • Trainer: M. Doyle /
Morning Line Odds

Race 5 (G1 Northern Dancer)

The 2020 edition of the Northern Dancer is a G1 in name only considering the bulk of the field exits the G3 Singspiel at Woodbine, which was barely graded stakes caliber to begin with. That race was won rather impressively by Count Again (#8), though his victory was partially a product of the main contenders failing to show up. He can definitely win right back here, but the stretch-out from a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half is not an insignificant one and his pedigree is a bit murky as far as stamina goes. I’m using him, but I prefer others.

Count Again’s stablemate Say the Word (#1) was actually the horse I picked to win the Singspiel and I don’t think he ran poorly at all to finish third. He broke inward at the start and was left at the back of the pack but closed strongly in the stretch from far back. I prefer him again to Count Again because unlike that one he has experience at this distance. You have to go all the way back to the 2018 Breeders’ at Woodbine, but he did run a fine second that day and the performance was right in line with the other races he was running as a 3-year-old. Gail Cox has this horse in very good form right now and I think he can definitely compete in such a depleted renewal of this race.

My top pick in the Northern Dancer split Count Again and Say the Word in the Singspiel, and did so with some trouble. Sir Sahib (#3) finished second that day after getting forced in behind runners in the stretch and losing his path briefly, yet he seemed to be finishing best of all. While it’s no sure thing that Say the Word is going to appreciate this distance based on one race at a mile and a half that came two years ago, Sir Sahib is much more acquainted with marathon distances having finished second and third in last year’s G2 Nijinsky and G3 Singspiel, respectively. Both those races were probably better than this one, and he may actually be in better form now.

The other horse I’d use as a ‘main’ play in this race is Nakamura (#5). I didn’t like him last out in the Singspiel due to concerns about the distance (I thought it was too short for him), but he actually put himself in contention early on in the race before fading late. That’s not at all what I was expecting from a horse who’s excelled going longer in the past, and you have to wonder if maybe he moved prematurely in that race. It could be that he’s starting to go off form, but I have to give him another try at his preferred trip.

I could have gone either way with Admiralty Pier (#7). On one hand, he’s clearly better than the horses he’s facing on Sunday and is going to have a distinct pace advantage, but ultimately I couldn’t side with him given the fact he’s never been beyond 1 1/16 miles in his career and is shedding blinkers in this spot, which feels like a move born of desperation.

Main:  1,3,5     Backup (priority):  8

Order of preference:  3-1-5-8

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