They double-teamed her early and they double-teamed her late. In the end it was the dirt eaters who got the all the money.
Witch’s Coven and City Splash rose to the occasion at monster odds for trainer Carl Anderson and came pounding home late to run 1-2 in the $30,000 Winnipeg Sun Stakes on a muddy Saturday night at the Downs. K 5 Stable’s heavily favoured Golden Stripe, who had defeated Witch’s Coven by 17 ¼-lengths in their previous meeting in the Canada Day Stakes, could do no better than fourth, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.
In the Canada Day Golden Stripe was able to steal away to an early lead without any serious pressure over a fast track. On Saturday the track was tiring, a little on the muddy side, and there was another front runner who ruined her plans — two actually.
Guy Kling’s 36-1 shot Threetimesawonder took the early lead in the Sun Stakes under Prayven Badrie and put Golden Stripe in tight behind her. Trevor Simpson deftly eased Golden Stripe to the outside out of the first turn after a quarter mile in 23.60 and challenged the leader after a half mile in 48 flat, but by that time she had Clint’s Wilson’s Finally Flying breathing down her bridle from the outside. Golden Stripe shook Threetimesawonder heading into the final turn, took the inside and immediately began a duel with Finally Flying that lasted to mid stretch.
While Golden Stripe and Finally Flying were battling through the turn, Witch’s Coven was gearing up from back and inside and City Splash was beginning to roll from the rear between horses. After six furlongs in a rapid 1:13.20 Golden Stripe and Finally Flying turned into the stretch heads apart and the gritty Finally Flying just wouldn’t quit. Golden Stripe finally got the measure Finally Flying in mid stretch, but by that time Witch’s Coven was already in full flight and challenging along the rail under jockey Robert Reeve’s Jr.
“We took on a lot of dirt,” said Reeves. “I was running out of goggles left and right. We just ate a lot of the track. When it opened up for her, she just gave another big burst.”
Witch’s Coven took over from the tiring Golden Stripe just as that one had shaken Finally Flying, opened up to get the mile in 1:41.60 and held off fast-closing stablemate City Splash to win by a length. Jilleah rallied for third to complete the longshot Triactor, 1 ½-lengths behind City Splash and a length in front of a very tired Golden Stripe in fourth. The final time for the 1 1/16-miles over the muddy strip was 1:48.60.
The odds on the first three finishers were 19-1, 18-1 and 12-1. The winner paid $41.40, the $2 Triactor paid $2,054.50 and the $2 Superfecta paid $10,136.10. Nobody had the Pick-3, which paid out to anyone who had 2/3 winners, and the Exactor and Quinella came in a little lower than expected at $236.50 and $83.30 respectively, probably because one of the owners of Witch’s Coven bet her money.
“Yesterday I said to myself the girls are gonna rock,” smiled co-owner Sandy Lepard, who also happened to be celebrating her birthday. “When I went to the windows the Witch was paying $80 and City Splash was $40. The $5 Exactors and win bets went on.”
Deep closers never win their share of races. Besides having to negotiate traffic from the back of the pack while getting dirt kicked in their face, they’re often at the mercy of lone speed horses that sail away dirt-free and early, leaving them with too much to do late. Races have to set up perfectly for them to win.
“The track suited us tonight,” said Anderson, who conditions Witch’s Coven for Gold Medal Stable and Dennis Mitchell. “It was tiring and she just keeps running.”
Witch’s Coven is a 5-year-old chestnut mare by Cuvee-Witch’s Call by Caller I.D. Her victory in the Sun improved her lifetime record to 4-1-6 from 28 starts. A true router with a touch of class, she has now earned $166,841.
Anderson has certainly won his share of big stakes in these parts, and while the results of the Sun Stakes weren’t totally shocking to a few sharp handicappers who thought Golden Stripe might get beat up on the front end, they were much less of a surprise to Anderson, who won the Winnipeg Sun Stakes last year.
With Witch’s Coven.