The Woodbine Oaks

Arravale 2Woodbine 1963 program cover


The Woodbine Oaks is due to run this upcoming Saturday, June 14 and will pit the best Canadian bred three year old fillies in training. The winner will go a long way to decide which one will be determined as the top filly in the division. This is a very important race on the Canadian racing calendar, but it is also a very important race to world breeding as there have been many winners to come from this race in the past that have gone on to become outstanding producers of stakes winners and important sires and dams.

Prior to 2001, the race was known as the Canadian Oaks since its inception in 1956, the year Woodbine opened. The race was at a distance of one mile and one-sixteenth for the first three years, lengthening to one mile and one-eighth in 1959 which is the current distance. There have been five fillies to win this race and add the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s biggest race for three year olds, including last year’s double winner Lexie Lou. However, the list of influential broodmares to win the race is a far greater number.

The inaugural winner in 1956 was Air Page, a daughter of Windfields stallion Bull Page. The following year, La Belle Rose won the race. This fine filly was the first winner of the race bred by E.P.Taylor’s Windfields Farm. La Belle Rose would produce only three foals as a broodmare, all fillies. Her daughter Floral Victory in turn produced five stakes winners including Nonparrell (Champion two year old) and the 1972 Oaks winner Happy Victory.

Wonder Where won the 1959 race, the first to be run at one mile and one furlong. A very durable and fast filly, she was named the Canadian Horse of the Year in 1959 ahead of that year’s Canadian Triple Crown winner New Providence. Wonder Where added seven more stakes victories to her Oaks win in 1959, two of which were against males. She won nineteen races from thirty-three starts, fourteen of which were stakes wins throughout her career. Wonder Where is a member of the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame, and has the third jewel of the Canadian Triple Tiara named in her honour.

The 1962 winner was the immortal Flaming Page. Immortal because she became the dam of the only English Triple Crown winner in the past eighty years, Nijinsky. Flaming Page was by Bull Page – Flaring Top by Menow. She is the first filly to win both the Queen’s Plate and the Canadian Oaks. Flaming Page had three foals, the aforementioned and incredible Nijinsky, his full brother Minsky and her daughter Fleur, who in turn would produce an Epsom Derby winner herself in the form of the very fast and game The Minstrel.

Flaming Page was a big strong girl, but did have some difficulty bearing her offspring. After producing Fleur in 1964, she was barren for the following season. Her first mating to Northern Dancer would result in dead twins, but the following year she gave the world her son Nijinsky sired by Northern Dancer in 1967. Nijinsky’s full brother Minsky was born a year later and that one became a champion. Flaming Page had a very difficult foaling the following year which produced another dead foal. The damage she sustained from this would force the Windfields brain trust to retire her from breeding altogether. She died in 1984 at the age of twenty-five.

The 1969 winner was Cool Mood, a daughter of Northern Dancer from his first crop of foals. Cool Mood was the first stakes winner campaigned by Kinghaven Farm, and would prove to be a foundation mare for the emerging Canadian stable. She later produced two fillies that each in turn produced a Canadian Triple Crown winner. Shady Well Stakes winner Passing Mood, out of Cool Mood, is the dam of Canadian Hall of Fame members With Approval (Canadian Triple Crown) and Touch Gold (Belmont Stakes), both of which have had solid careers at stud. Passing Mood has also produced stakes winners Daijin, Bar U Mood and Launch Key. Cool Mood’s daughter Shy Spirit is the dam of Canadian Triple Crown winner Izvestia. Unfortunately Izvestia died as a four year old when he broke his leg severely and could not be saved. He was to start his stud career at Gainesway Farm the following season.

The year after Cool Mood’s victory in the Canadian Oaks came the victory by South Ocean. Sandy Hawley was her jockey and with this victory began a five year winning streak in the classic race. Hawley eventually won eight Canadian Oaks in total. South Ocean raced under the colours of Charles Taylor and then join the broodmare band at Windfields when she was retired. South Ocean produced in 1978 the undefeated English champion two year old of 1980 named Storm Bird. Sired by Northern Dancer, Storm Bird later embarked on an excellent career as a sire getting such notable classic winners like the wonderful Balanchine, Indian Skimmer and Summer Squall. Storm Bird’s most notable son is Storm Cat, a two time leading sire and the progenitor of one of the strongest sire lines currently in fashion.

Square Angel is the winner of the 1973 Canadian Oaks. Bred by E.P.Taylor, Square Angel raced under the colours of General Preston W. Gilbride. Following her championship racing career, which included victory in the Nettie Handicap, Square Angel was re-acquired by Taylor to become a broodmare and has had a very significant impact on world breeding. She is by Belmont Stakes winner Quadrangle out of the excellent broodmare Nangela by Nearctic. Nangela is also the dam of Dancing Angela, who in turn produced graded stakes winners Bejila, Le Dansuer and Regal Angela.

Square Angel produced seven foals of which six were winners and four were stakes winners. Multiple stakes winner Stellarette, by Tentam, later produced grade one winner Cuddles and Nuryette, who in turn is the dam of multiple stakes winners Tap To Music and Northern Afleet. The latter has been a very successful sire in recent breeding. Square Angel also produced Beverly D Stakes winner Dancing On A Cloud by Nijinsky. However, Square Angel’s two filly foals by Key To The Mint have been very instrumental in keeping this maternal line in the forefront of top breeding circles world-wide.

Love Smitten won the grade one Apple Blossom Handicap and then produced Swain, the two time winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, who also added the Coronation Cup and the Irish Champion Stakes to his list of group one victories. Swain was voted as the European champion older horse twice in his stellar racing career. Love Smitten is also the dam of Water Poet, an eight time leading sire in Venezuela.

Kamar was the first of the two sisters and emulated her mother when she won the 1979 Canadian Oaks, as well as the Duchess Stakes to earn top three year old filly honours. Kamar became a broodmare of the year (1990), when her daughter Gorgeous won the grade one Vanity Handicap, the grade two La Canada Stakes and Apple Blossom Handicap, as well as bang up second place finishes to champion Bayakoa in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff, Spinster Stakes and Santa Margarita Handicap. Also in 1990, Kamar’s daughter Seaside Attraction won the Kentucky Oaks, and finished second in three other lucrative events.

These two are not the only notable offspring from Kamar. Key To The Moon won the 1984 Queen’s Plate, as well as the Discovery Handicap and Marine Stakes that year to be named as the Champion three year old in Canada. He would go on to win the Dominion Day Handicap, the Durham Cup and Gulfstream Park Sprint as a four year old with a very close second to Dr. Carter in the Gulfstream Park Handicap thrown in.

Kamar also produced Hiaam (Princess Margaret Stakes, Wallis Fillies Stakes, Bet With The Tote Trophy), who is the dam of recent UAE 2000 Guineas winner Maftool, Mall Queen (Prix Yacowlef), Sheer Reason (Criterium d’Evry, dam of Sharp Practice), and Munnaya (Oaks Trial Stakes) who is the dam of multi grade one stakes winner Alpha (Travers Stakes, Woodward Stakes).

Jood is another daughter of Kamar to carry on the family fortunes. Breeder’s Cup Turf winner Fantastic Light, winner of over $8 million, is a son of Jood. Fantastic Light also won the grade/group one Man O’ War Stakes, Hong Kong Cup, Tattersall Gold Cup, Prince Of Wales Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes, facing some of the best horses in recent memory such as Galileo, Montjeu, Stay Gold and Kalanisi. Another daughter of Jood is Pretty Polly Stakes winner Hi Dubai.

Finally with Kamar, her aforementioned grade one winning daughter Seaside Attraction became a great producer herself as she is the dam of Golden Attraction (Spinaway Stakes, Frizette Stakes, Matron Stakes etc), Cape Town (Florida Derby), Cape Canaveral (San Miguel Stakes), and Red Carnival (Cherry Hinton Stakes) who is the dam of Desert Lord (Prix de l’Abbaye), Carnival Dancer (Champion Stakes) and multi stakes winner Funfair.

The 1980 Canadian Oaks was won by the good filly Par Excellance. However the race will always be remembered as the race in which beloved jockey Avelino Gomez would perish from injuries sustained in a tragic accident, when his mount Swisskin was involved in a three horse spill on the backstretch. The colourful and energetic Gomez was a great ambassador to Canadian racing and is honoured with a life size statue of him overlooking the beautiful Woodbine paddock.

Classy ‘N Smart was the first of seven winners of this prestigious race for Sam-Son Farm. Not only was she named as the top three year old filly of her year, Classy ‘N Smart later became a great broodmare for Sam-Son and is the dam of the most accomplished female Thoroughbred to ever be bred in Canada. Dance Smartly won the 1991 Oaks in a perfect eight for eight season that propelled her to great heights. Dance Smartly won the Canadian Triple Crown, The Molson Million, all against males, and then the Breeder’s Cup Distaff against the best North American fillies and mares in training.

Classy ‘N Smart is also the dam of grade one winner and leading sire Smart Strike, his graded stakes winning full brothers Strike Smartly and Full Of Wonder, as well as stakes winner Secret ‘N Classy.

Dance Smartly herself produced the 2001 Oaks winner in Dancethruthedawn, who repeated the success of her mother by winning the Queen’s Plate as well. Dance Smartly is also the dam of stakes winners Dance With Ravens (Grey Stakes) and Scatter The Gold (Queen’s Plate, Prince Of Wales Stakes).

There are many more great winners of the Woodbine/Canadian Oaks such as La Lorgnette (1985 Oaks, Queen’s Plate) who is the dam of Champion three time group one winner Hawk Wing and Alexandrina, who in turn is the dam of champion Thornfield. La Lorgnette is the last winner to carry the historic Windfields Farm colours to victory in the Oaks.

Tiffany’s Secret (1990 Oaks) is the grand dam of multi stakes winner La Dolce Vita. Deputy Jane West (1993 Oaks) was a two time Canadian champion and then produced multi stakes winner Bag Lady Jane, who in turn is the dam of Mamma Kimbo (Fantasy Stakes). 2004 Oaks winner Eye Of The Sphinx by Smart Strike, was full of generational Sam-Son Farm breeding and produced for them Eye Of The Leopard (Queen’s Plate) and his multi stakes winning full sister Deceptive Vision and full brother Hotep.

Additional Woodbine Oaks winners such as the 2005 winner Gold Strike has produced multi stakes winner Llanarmon. 1977 winner Northernette, out of 1970 Oaks winner South Ocean, is a full sister to Storm Bird and is the dam of stakes winner and good sire Gold Crest. Regent Miss won the 1981 race and then became the dam of grade one winner Deputy Governor. Avowal won the 1982 edition during a wonderful career that saw her capture eight stakes wins before her successful breeding career. Avowal is the dam of Freedom Fleet, Adarling, and Restraint (dam of Hold Me Back). Sealy Hill won the 2007 race and would become Canadian Horse of the Year before producing multi stakes winning champion sprinter Hillaby, her first foal.

The most recent winners such as Irish Mission, Roan Inish, Milwaukee Appeal, Ginger Brew and Lexie Lou either do not have any offspring old enough to race as of yet, or are still racing and have not begun their breeding careers. The foals from these Woodbine Oaks winners will be in high demand and carry with them high hopes, not only because of the accomplishments of their mothers, but also because of the grand tradition of Woodbine Oaks winners as being producers of great stakes winners.

The Woodbine Oaks may be seen as a Canadian only classic, which in race conditions is as it is only available to Canadian bred three year old fillies, but in reality it is a proving ground for some of the more important broodmares on a world-wide scale. With such acclaimed horses as Nijinsky, Dance Smartly, Kamar, Storm Bird, Smart Strike, Gorgeous, and Eye Of The Leopard as first generation descendants, as well as The Minstrel, Fantastic Light, Swain, Thornfield, With Approval, Izvestia, Golden Attraction, Desert Lord, Alpha and Hillaby as direct second or third generation descendants, this restricted race has had profound implications on the world breeding scene.

As a Canadian, this annual race holds a special place in my heart.

(Photos courtesy of the author)

Year Winner Jockey Trainer Owner Time
2014 Lexie Lou Patrick Husbands Mark E. Casse Gary Barber 1:49.77
2013 Nipissing Steve Bahen Rachel Halden Chiefswood Stable 1:50.34
2012 Irish Mission Alex Solis Mark Frostad Robert S. Evans 1:50.50
2011 Inglorious Luis Contreras Josie Carroll Donver Stable 1:51.77
2010 Roan Inish David J. Moran Carolyn M. Costigan Robert J. Costigan 1:50.53
2009 Milwaukee Appeal Stewart Elliott Scott H. Fairlie C.E.C. Farms 1:49.84
2008 Ginger Brew Javier Castellano Brian A. Lynch Stronach Stables 1:51.40
2007 Sealy Hill Patrick Husbands Mark E. Casse Eugene Melnyk 1:50.68
2006 Kimchi Patrick Husbands Mark E. Casse Seasoft Stable 1:52.23
2005 Gold Strike Jim McAleney Reade Baker Dick Bonnycastle 1:51.63
2004 Eye of the Sphynx Todd Kabel Mark Frostad Sam-Son Farm 1:53.11
2003 Too Late Now Robert Landry James E. Day Edna Arrow 1:53.05
2002 Ginger Gold Richard Dos Ramos Sid C. Attard Jim Dandy Stable 1:51.56
2001 Dancethruthedawn Gary Boulanger Mark Frostad Sam-Son Farm 1:51.74
2000 Catch The Ring Robert Landry Mark Frostad Sam-Son Farm 1:53.16
1999 Touch Dial Mickey Walls Tino Attard Stronach Stables 1:51.13
1998 Kirby’s Song Todd Kabel Tino Attard Kirby Canada Farm 1:50.80
1997 Capdiva Robert Landry Roger Attfield Legacy Thoroughbred 1:50.80
1996 Silent Fleet Steven Bahen Bernard Girault Peter Chiodo 1:50.20
1995 Gal In A Ruckus Herb McCauley John T. Ward, Jr. John C. Oxley 1:51.20
1994 Plenty Of Sugar Richard Dos Ramos Roger Attfield Kinghaven/Ferguson 1:49.60
1993 Deputy Jane West Robin Platts Macdonald Benson Lady Slipper Farm 1:52.40
1992 Hope For A Breeze Herb McCauley Paul Nielsen Hopefield Farm 1:52.40
1991 Dance Smartly Pat Day James E. Day Sam-Son Farm 1:51.20
1990 Tiffany’s Secret Sandy Hawley James E. Day Sam-Son Farm 1:51.20
1989 Blondeinamotel Pat Day Michael J. Doyle Windhaven 1:52.40
1988 Tilt My Halo Sandy Hawley James E. Day Sam-Son Farm 1:53.00
1987 One From Heaven Gary Stahlbaum Phil England Richard R. Kennedy 1:51.40
1986 Playlist Richard Dos Ramos Roger Attfield Kinghaven Farms 1:51.80
1985 La Lorgnette David Clark Macdonald Benson Windfields Farm 1:51.20
1984 Classy ‘n Smart Irwin Driedger James E. Day Sam-Son Farm 1:51.80
1983 First Summer Day David Clark W. Millar P. B. Ballentine 1:52.60
1982 Avowal Brian Swatuk Arthur H. Warner Richard R. Kennedy 1:52.80
1981 Regent Miss Richard Grubb George S. Nemett Whispering Hills 1:50.80
1980 Par Excellance Gary Stahlbaum Jacques Dumas Knightsbridge-Big Boy 1:53.20
1979 Kamar Sandy Hawley Emile M. Allain B. K. Y. Stable 1:51.20
1978 La Voyageuse James Kelly Yonnie Starr Jean-Louis Levesque 1:50.40
1977 Northernette Avelino Gomez Jerry C. Meyer Asadoorian/Cosentino 1:52.40
1976 Bye Bye Paris Jeffrey Fell Donnie Walker Conn Smythe 1:51.40
1975 Reasonable Win Richard Grubb Fred H. Loschke Hammer Kopf Farm 1:49.80
1974 Trudie Tudor Sandy Hawley John Morahan D. Banks 1:55.40
1973 Square Angel Sandy Hawley Frank H. Merrill, Jr. W. Preston Gilbride 1:48.80
1972 Happy Victory Sandy Hawley David C. Brown C. J. Jackson 1:51.80
1971 Lauries Dancer Sandy Hawley James C. Bentley Helen G. Stollery 1:50.60
1970 South Ocean Sandy Hawley Gordon J. McCann Charles Taylor 1:51.40
1969 Cool Mood Johnny Sellers John W. Russell Kinghaven Farm 1:52.00
1968 Solometeor William Boland P. Richards Windfields Farm 1:50.80
1967 All We Have Eric Walsh Warren Beasley Warren Beasley 1:54.80
1966 Northern Minx Jim Fitzsimmons Yonnie Starr Conn Smythe 1:51.60
1965 Northern Queen Heliodoro Gustines Horatio Luro Windfields Farm 1:53.20
1964 Later Mel Avelino Gomez Willie Thurner W. J. Farr 1:52.80
1963 Menedict Paul Bohenko Carl F. Chapman H. A. Grant 1:55.40
1962 Flaming Page Jim Fitzsimmons Horatio Luro Windfields Farm 1:52.00
1961 Maid o’North Cliff Potts Red Barnard Shermanor Farm 1:53.60
1960 Menantic Avelino Gomez Gordon J. McCann Windfields Farm 1:52.20
1959 Wonder Where Al Coy Yonnie Starr Maloney & Smythe 1:52.20
1958 Yummy Mummy E. A. Rodriguez John Passero William R. Beasley 1:45.80
1957 La Belle Rose Avelino Gomez Gordon J. McCann E. P. Taylor 1:46.60
1956 Air Page Ed Plesa Willie Thurner D. G. Ross 1:47.20


One comment

  • Simon Robinson

    I didn’t know so many great mares won this race!! Thanks for sharing your info Colin. Great article!!!

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