Dec 2, 2023 – The Shady Well Stakes ran Saturday at Woodbine, a 6-furlong race on the tapeta between seven Ontario-bred 2-year-old fillies competing for a $150,000 purse. Race 9 featured a strong field with $400,000 acquisition and favourite Onella (X-Men, Madaket, and SF Racing) under top jockey Kazushi Kimura coming into the event with two 5-furlong works at :59.3 and off a convincing maiden win on October 14th. Expected to push her were Master Aragon (5/2 MLO odds) and Kin’s Concerto (3:1).

Canuck Racing Club’s filly Vandoo came into this one with the most race experience and speed figures that had improved in each of her last three races. That said, she had a month or more of rest between all of them and was running the Shady Well Stakes just 16 days after her last win. “We’re in uncharted territory in terms of the knowing whether she likes a quick turnaround,” commented Rob van Blokland, one of the club’s managing partners. “Vandoo has already given us such a great season. We’re really pleased, so this last opportunity for her to run this year is like our gravy race. Our objective entering this one is for her to earn her ‘black type’ tag by finishing top 3. The odds have her finishing in the fourth or fifth spot, but we know our filly. She’s a fighter and we’re confident.”

Vandoo broke clean and was one of the first out of the gate with jockey Patrick Husbands confirming handicapper expectations that he’d opt for a stalking-closer strategy by slotting back into fourth. Rafi Hernandez on Master Aragorn and Kazushi Kimura on Onella hustled on the break to get to the lead and turned it into a sprint race by the half mile marker. Husbands stayed mid-pack but within closing distance.

Rounding into the back straight, Husbands moved Vandoo two wide outside of the runners. Vandoo put Master Aragon into her rear view going from fourth to third which prompted Hernandez to further nudge his mount who would have nothing left to offer at the quarter pole after trying to stay with the leader. Straightening out for the final drive, Vandoo was four wide and gaining fast on Kimura who responded by pushing Onella to open on the pack coming out of the turn. From 330 yards to the wire, it was an absolute slugfest between Little Teddy and Vandoo with both refusing to relinquish ground. Vandoo pushed a nose ahead of Little Teddy around the 220-yard marker and the duo caught Onella just beyond that.

With the latter tiring in the deep stretch, Vandoo seized the lead for a few seconds, but Shamans Girl had swung out wide and was charging hard in full stride. At around 115 yards the top three drew even, but the difference maker was Shamans Girl‘s top eSpeed figure of 83 (about 9 points above her closest rivals). While she widened the gap on the way to victory, Vandoo and Little Teddy continued a fierce battle to the wire in which Vandoo showed no quit, dug deep and, as Equibase later summarized it, “stubbornly held on to be second best at the finish”. Ultimately, the two foes that opted to make it a speed race – having both led from start to finish in their previous wins – finished back of the field in this outing. The final time for this 6-furlong affair was 1:11.63.

Despite a quick turnaround, Vandoo ran really well and was game from gate to wire. In a race where she wasn’t a consensus top 3 pick, she wasn’t intimidated by her rivals in the least and her focus and effort remained consistent throughout. Just two weeks removed from her previous bout, Vandoo was beaten only by a 26:1 competitor who was 100% fresh having never raced before. Just 16 days after a race in which she clocked a top eSpeed of 80, Vandoo still put in the second best figure of her 2YO campaign.

While collecting $30,000 worth of the prize, Canuck Racing Club accomplished their mission of hitting the board and getting Vandoo a “black type” distinction that increases her inherent value in the long run.

At the end of her inaugural 2YO campaign, Vandoo boasts a record of 2-1-2 in five starts and is now a “multiple stakes placed” thoroughbred who has already earned 5x her purchase price.

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