By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
WINNIPEG — Their first race was outstanding. The re-match could be even better.
Miss Imperial, the winner of the Canada Day Stakes, will face Hidden Grace, who lost the first race of her career to Miss Imperial in those same Canada Day Stakes, will go head-to-head once again in the $25,000 Escape Clause Stakes at Assiniboia Downs this Wednesday night.
This time, however, there appears to be a bit of a wrinkle. In the Canada Day Stakes, Hidden Grace was running for the first time this summer while Miss Imperial was going to post for the 11th time. Now that Hidden Grace has a race under her bridle, she’s the morning line favourite at even money. Miss Imperial is the second favourite at 7-5.
The Escape Clause Stakes, like the Canada Day Stakes is over one mile, so these two four-year-old fillies know both the distance and each other. In their first meeting back on July 1, it turned into a two-horse match race at the top of the stretch. This week, it should be a dandy from gate to finish.
“With a start under her belt, Hidden Grace has now levelled the playing field,” said Downs CEO Darren Dunn, who handed the Canada Day Stakes trophy to trainer Murray Duncan on July 1. “This is the return matchup everybody has been waiting for. These are two talented and classy horses throwing it down at the top level of the division and the results should back that up in spades.”
It was the third Stakes victory of the year for Miss Imperial and the first loss in the short, but incredible career of Hidden Grace. She’d had nine stakes races during her career, eight at Assiniboia Downs, and starting with the Debutante Stakes at ASD on Aug. 3, 2018 and ending with the CTHS Sales Stakes at Century Downs on Oct. 10, 2019, she had vanquished all of her foes.
However, on July 1, she made her 2020 debut in a grueling 7 ½-furlong battle in 28-degree C heat against the best filly on the ASD grounds this summer. In fact, it was Hidden Grace’s first race since Oct. 10, 2019 and down the stretch, in a one-on-one battle with the favourite, she just didn’t have enough.
Miss Imperial, on the other hand, had already won the $18,000 Go Go Lolo Overnight Stakes back on Opening Night as well as the $25,000 LaVerendrye Stakes five weeks ago. Overall, in 2020, Miss Imperial has won six races and earned almost $110,000 for Duncan, her owner/trainer. Her career record has improved to nine wins, three seconds and three thirds in 19 starts. Her career earnings are now $313,000.
In the Canada Day Stakes, she dueled between horses down the back stretch and then shook the pace mare Quietly Quick by the midway point of the race. She turned back her only rival, Hidden Grace, at mid-stretch and held well. Hidden Grace was a comfortable fourth until the midway point of the race and then made a big move into the final turn. She fell behind in mid-stretch and gave her best to the wire, but didn’t have enough to grab the lead as Miss Imperial won by a length.
This Wednesday, however, the odds-makers believe Hidden Grace will be ready to win.Bred by Cam Ziprick, Barry Arnason and Charles Fouillard at Ziprick Thoroughbreds in Russell, MB; Hidden Grace is owned by Barry Arnason, Cam Ziprick and Charles Fouillard; trained by Murray Duncan and ridden by leading jockey Antonio Whitehall, Hidden Grace now has nine wins and a second place finish and has career earnings of $138,440 in 10 career starts.
Miss Imperial is a Kentucky-bred, owned by Murray Duncan and the estate of Garylle B. Stewart, trained by Murray Duncan and ridden by Stanley Chadee Jr. She was claimed by Duncan on April 11 at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., brought to Manitoba and is now unbeaten in three starts – all stakes races — at ASD.
“One thing seems certain: Hidden Grace is better seasoned for this race than she was for the Canada Day Stakes which was her first race since October,” said Downs handicapper Ivan Bigg. “By contrast, Miss Imperial had already won five races at three different tracks. It seems rather fitting they are meeting in the race named for Escape Clause who is now baby-making in Japan after being sold at auction last fall.”
The big rematch goes Wednesday night at about 8:35 p.m. (Race 3) while live racing returns to the Downs Monday night at 7:30. You can watch and wager on the races from the Club West Lounge or get an hpibet.com account and watch and wager on your device at home.