Fan favourite Holy Helena, who won last year’s editions of the Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, and the Queen’s Plate, returns to the scene of her high-profile triumphs in the $175,000 G2 Dance Smartly Stakes, part of Saturday’s stellar, star-stacked Plate undercard.
A daughter of Ghostzapper, Holy Helena will be making her first appearance at the Toronto oval since a second-place finish in the G2 Ontario Derby last October.
Since then, the dark bay has competed in the U.S., winning a pair of races at Gulfstream, including the G3 The Very One Stakes, while also taking the G2 Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont.
“It's always very tricky when all the horses have the same style,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said after the Sheepshead Bay triumph. “I couldn't tell who was going to be on the lead or anything. I guess the pace was slow and they were very fresh up ahead of her and she had to sprint down the lane to win it. She bobbled a little bit too right in mid-stretch there. She was running so fast, it was kind of like the ground kind of gave out under her.”
Holy Helena heads into the Dance Smartly, to be contested at 1¼ miles on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, off a fifth-place effort in the G2 New York Stakes on June 8.
“She’s a really nice horse,” said Mike Doyle, racing manager for Stronach Stables. “Jimmy has done a great job with her. Holy Helena’s been running really well for him. In four starts this year, she has three wins. In her last one, she finished fifth, but was only beaten three lengths. She ran a very good race.”
A lifetime winner of six races from ten starts, along with $1,027,333 in purse earnings, Holy Helena will be contesting her fourth race at Woodbine this Saturday.
You can count Doyle, who won the inaugural running of the Dance Smartly with Bessarabian in 1986, as a big fan of the filly.
“She was always laid back and beautiful to be around,” he said. “She’s the same way. If anything, she’s even more so. She’s arrived up here in great shape and we hope she runs well. She’s gorgeous, she really is.”
Two of Holy Helena’s rivals will come from trainer Mark Casse’s barn.
“She’s been good,” said the Hall of Fame conditioner of Bletchley, a three-time winner from 11 starts. “The turf was pretty soft at Keeneland, and she didn’t care for it that much. Her race at Gulfstream [a win on March 15] was good. I think a point could be made that she may have been best in her last race (second in the G2 Nassau at Woodbine). She had a little trouble, ran well.
“We’ll see about the stretch-out here; we’re not exactly sure how that will work. But, she’s training extremely well.”
Dream Dancing, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit, has four wins from 17 starts. Last year, she won the G1 Del Mar Oaks. “Dream Dancing ran a big race her last start [sixth in the G1 Just A Game Stakes] at Belmont, against the best turf fillies in the country,” said Casse. “She’s a Grade 1 winner. We think she’ll like the EP Taylor Turf Course. The mile and a quarter won’t be a problem.”
Last year, Starship Jubilee, who returns on Saturday, and Rainha Da Bateria dead-heated for the Dance Smartly win.