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If you saw last year’s Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (Can-G1), don’t look now, but you just might see an encore showing on Sunday.

A field of eight was entered for the $500,000 Northern Dancer on Woodbine’s turf course, and two of the main players from 2011 are back in featured roles for this year’s 1 ½-mile test.

One is Wigmore Hall, who won last year’s race as a 7-5 favorite. The other is Al Khali, who was a troubled third at 7-2 odds while finishing just three quarters of a length behind the victorious Wigmore Hall.

Apparently much has changed in one regard in the last 12 months, as this time around Al Khali is the 3-1 third choice and Wigmore Hall is priced at 6-1 on the morning line.

Al Khali’s price seems logical as he enters Sunday’s race off a second-place finish in the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course. A year ago, he was third in the Sword Dancer in his warm-up for a trip across the border.

With efforts like that on his record, Al Khali certainly deserves to be one of the favorites, though there’s a hitch. In his last 15 starts, Al Khali has been second or third in four Grade 1 stakes. Yet his lone win in that period was a victory in an allowance race at Keeneland. While he’s a must-use in the exotics, 3-1 is simply not an attractive win price in a race as competitive as the Northern Dancer.

Meanwhile, Wigmore Hall has also been MIA as far as the winner’s circle goes. In his eight starts since the Northern Dancer, his best showing was a third-place finish in a Group 3 stakes in England.

He was last seen crossing the finish line 10th in the Arlington Million, the same race in which a 2011 fourth-place finish served as his springboard to victory in the Northern Dancer.

While that might sound like one more indication of a tailspin, Wigmore Hall was beaten by 3 ¼ lengths in the 2011 Million. Back in August, he finished just 3 ½ lengths behind the front-running Little Mike who never gave closers like Wigmore Hall a shot. As similar as his margin of defeat was, his Beyer and Ragozin Speed Figures in this year’s Million were nearly identical to his 2011 figures.

If his odds are close to the 6-1 morning-line quote, then Wigmore Hall would be an interesting value play based on last year’s form cycle. But if the wagering public visits their nearby video library and starts backing the defending winner, siding with him becomes less appealing from a risk/reward standpoint.

The key to wagering on the Northern Dancer centers on how much support Scalo receives. He was pegged as the 2-1 favorite after finishing a rallying third in the 1 ¼-mile Sky Classic Stakes (Can-G2) at Woodbine. The thought process in setting the morning line was no doubt that Scalo would appreciate the added ground of the Northern Dancer. But the Sky Classic was only a Grade 2 stakes and his speed figures were slower than Al Khali’s and Wigmore Hall’s last efforts, making him an underlay in this spot.

Now if history does repeat itself, someone will split Al Khali and Wigmore Hall in the exacta and the most likely candidate for that task is Musketier. The durable 10-year-old horse has been running in Grade 3 stakes, but he has the services of a pair of 2012 Hall of Fame inductees in trainer Roger Attfield and jockey John Velazquez and has turned in some sharp turf workouts since a runner-up finish in the Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3) at Arlington on July 14.

He’s another possibility for a win bet, though as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, his odds are not that appealing.

For now, expecting that Wigmore Hall will receive more play than anticipated at the betting windows, we’ll give Al Khali the nod to exact some revenge. But if the price on Wigmore Hall is right, then watching a rerun on a Sunday afternoon in Canada might be a rather rewarding way to spend the day.

Bob Ehalt’s picks:

Al Khali

Musketier

Wigmore Hall

Scalo

$500,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes Presented by Vtech (Can-G1)

Sunday, Woodbine, Race 8, 4:37 p.m. EDT

3-year-olds & older, 1 1/2 Miles, Turf

PP. Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

1. Celtic Conviction (ON)

J.M. Campbell

119

M J Doyle

2. Ojibway Signal (ON)

L. Contreras

119

D R Bell

3. Al Khali (KY)

G.K. Gomez

119

W I Mott

4. Scalo (GB)

U. Rispoli

121

A Woehler

5. Forte Dei Marmi (GB)

A.O. Solis

123

R L Attfield

6. Musketier (GER)

J.R. Velazquez

121

R L Attfield

7. Wigmore Hall (IRE)

J.P. Spencer

123

M L Bell

8. Irish Mission (ON)

J. Stein

109

M R Frostad

 

 

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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