Calumet Farm’s English Bee (inside) wins the 2019 Virginia Derby (G3) over Jais’s Solitude
If it weren’t for tough luck, English Bee wouldn’t have much at all. Since winning the Virginia Derby (G3) and Parx Derby back-to-back in the summer and fall of 2019, the 7-year-old gelding has raced 18 times with two wins and been beaten by five lengths or fewer in 10 graded stakes.
Two of those losses have come at Gulfstream Park in the $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3), beaten a half-length as runner-up to Sombeyay in 2020 and four lengths when third behind Mira Mission last winter. The Canadian Turf returns Saturday as part of a blockbuster 14-race Fountain of Youth (G2) program, and trainer Graham Motion is hoping the third time is the charm.
The 1 1/16-mile Canadian Turf for 4-year-olds and up is the third of nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.85 million in purses anchored by the Fountain of Youth, the next step for 3-year-olds on the road to the $1-million Curlin Florida Derby (G1).
Post time is 11 a.m. (ET). The Canadian Turf is carded as Race 8 with a post time of 2:29 p.m.
English Bee, by English Channel, returned from nearly eight months between starts to notch a hard-fought optional claiming allowance triumph Jan. 13 at Gulfstream going one mile. He forged a short lead after six furlongs and was pressed every step of the way to edge Mouillage by a neck and improve his local record to 2-2-2 from nine tries.
“I was very pleased with his comeback race. I think this kind of course really suits him. I think he likes the firmer-type tracks,” Motion said. “I felt good about him, and I thought it was a great spot for him. I wanted to give him plenty of time to get over that race and I thought that this race made sense.”
Prior to his season debut, English Bee hadn’t run since finishing fifth by 4 ¾ lengths to Set Piece in the Dinner Party (G2) last May at Pimlico. Last winter he was fifth by two lengths in Gulfstream’s Appleton (G3) following the Canadian Turf and fourth by 3 ½ lengths in the Tampa Bay (G2) and ended 2021 running third in the Fort Lauderdale (G2), beaten two lengths.
Overall, Calumet Farm’s homebred English Bee has finished third or better in 13 of 28 career starts, seven of them wins, with $559,550 in purse earnings.
“He was a little bit of a surprise in the beginning. He’d never been overly impressive,” Motion said of Pimlico’s 2019 James W. Murphy winner. “But I’ve always felt like he’s that special kind of hard-knocking, blue collar horse. He just always shows up.”
English Bee drew the rail in a field of 10 and will have Luis Saez aboard for the fourth straight race.
“I’m tickled to have Luis back on him,” Motion said. “I think it’s a big plus to have somebody that knows him.”
Winner of Canada’s most famous race, the 1 ¼-mile Queen’s Plate on the all-weather surfact at Woodbine in 2021, WellSpring Stables’ Safe Conduct is entered to make his 5-year-old debut in the Canadian Turf. The Ontario-bred son of Bodemeister hasn’t run since finishing third, beaten two lengths by King Cause, in the Knickerbocker (G3) last October at Aqueduct.
“He got a well-needed break. He had been on the track for a long time. He has come back really well. It’s probably the best I’ve seen him since he won the Queen’s Plate,” trainer Phil Serpe said. “He’s very fresh, and it’s really good to see him this way.”
Safe Conduct returned to the work tab on New Year’s Eve at Gulfstream and shows nine timed moves – all but one on the all-weather Tapeta – for his comeback, including a bullet five furlongs in 59.14 seconds Feb. 19 and a half-mile in 48.66 Sunday, fourth-fastest of 10 horses.
“His works have been really, really encouraging. Last week he worked in 59 and galloped out in 1:12 on the synthetic track and his gallop out was really strong,” Serpe said. “He sort of lacked that a little bit last year. He’d work OK and gallop out OK, but this year there’s a lot more to it. So, we’re excited to get him back.”
Emma-Jayne Wilson is named to ride from Post 8.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher entered the pair of Emmanuel and Steady On. Siena Farm and WinStar Farm’s Emmanuel will be making his fourth straight turf start and second this year after ending a six-month gap between starts by winning the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay (G3) Feb. 4. He was a front-running winner of the 1 1/8-mile Pennine Ridge (G2) in his grass debut last summer at Belmont Park.
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Steady On will be making his graded-stakes debut in the Canadian Turf. He has run second in two stakes, the Gio Ponti last fall on the Aqueduct turf and the Dec. 26 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream, moved off the grass to the Tapeta, where he was beaten a nose. Last out he ran fourth in the Carousel Club Handicap Jan. 28, also over the all-weather.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Dakota Gold is a three-time stakes winner including the open Nownownow in 2021 at Monmouth Park in his second career start and first on the grass. Fifth as the favorite in that fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), the 4-year-old Freud colt dead-heated for third with Canadian Turf rival Fort Washington, beaten a neck for it all, in the Tropical Park Derby.
Completing the field are Julian J. De Mora Jr.’s multiple stakes winner California Frolic, second in the 2022 Virginia Derby (G3) and a late-running fifth in the Carousel Club last out; Peter Brant and Joseph Allen’s 2022 Tale of the Cat winner Fort Washington; Foxbrook Farm’s Good Governance, exiting a troubled ninth in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) Jan. 28 at Gulfstream; Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s 12-time winner Shadow Sphinx, who captured a Feb. 4 optional claiming allowance winner on the Tapeta at Gulfstream; and Bruno Schickedanz’s Grade 3-placed Souper Dormy, riding a two-race win streak.