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Fillies Face Courageous Lady 'Test'

Published: October 15, 2021 11:29 am ET

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After each winning with one of the season’s top miles in their most recent starts, Test Of Faith and Irish-bred import Oakwoodanabella meet in a field of seven in Saturday’s $100,000 Courageous Lady Stakes for three-year-old female pacers at MGM Northfield Park.

Test Of Faith, who will start from post five with David Miller driving for trainer Brett Pelling, is the 3-5 morning-line favourite. In her last start, she won the Glen Garnsey Memorial by two lengths over Fire Start Hanover in 1:48.3 at Red Mile. She covered the second half of the mile in :52.2 on her way to equaling the second-fastest win time of the season for a three-year-old female pacer.

“She’s very, very special,” New Zealand native Pelling said. “There is an expression guys use down home when a real special horse comes along. They call her a freak. I think she’s a bit of a freak. She’s push-button, and she’s bottomless. She’s unreal.”

Test Of Faith, a daughter of Art Major-Cannae Cammie, has won 11 of 13 races this year and 19 of 22 lifetime with earnings of $1.15 million. She finished second in all three losses.

“The three times that she lost I don’t believe were her fault,” said Pelling, who trains the filly for owners Mel Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable, and Eddie Gran. “In the Thoroughbred world, she would be all over the front page of every trade magazine. She’s a champion.”

Test Of Faith’s triumphs this year include the Park MGM Pace, Bluegrass Stakes, Empire Breeders Classic, and New York Sire Stakes championship. She is the No. 3-ranked horse in the current Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll.

She will head to the Breeders Crown at The Meadowlands following the Courageous Lady. Eliminations, if necessary, will be Oct. 23 and the $600,000 final is Oct. 30.

“We unfortunately missed a few races during the summer because of rescheduling,” Pelling said. “That sort of impacted her a little bit, so she really hasn’t, in my mind, raced hard a lot. I don’t believe there will be eliminations for the Breeders Crown for her, so I figured we’d race this week and miss next week.”

Oakwoodanabella was not eligible to the Courageous Lady, so her connections put up $11,500 to supplement to the event. In her most recent start, she defeated older rivals in 1:49.3 at Hollywood Dayton, equaling the track’s fastest mile ever for a female pacer. The time also was the second-fastest of the season by a 3-year-old female pacer on a five-eighths-mile oval.

“The day she won at Dayton in (1):49.3 was pretty handy,” said Brian Brown, who trains Oakwoodanabella for owner Denis Copse of Ireland. “I think she could have easily gone in (1):49 or better. We didn’t go to that race looking to go fast, we just went to try to win a race and pick up money to pay for these supplements.

“She wound up going pretty good. She was not getting tired, she was getting faster as the race went. She can carry her high speed for a long way.”

Oakwoodanabella, a daughter of Foreclosure N-Carmel Camden, was the British Harness Racing Club’s 2020 Horse of the Year after going unbeaten in six races as a two-year-old. Since arriving this year in the U.S., she has won three of five starts and earned $52,098. Ronnie Wrenn Jr. will drive the filly from post two Saturday. She is the 4-1 morning-line second choice.

In her only previous Grand Circuit action this season, she finished second to Test Of Faith in her elimination of the Jugette Stakes and then third in the final.

“I think she’s a really, really nice filly,” Brown said. “I don’t know yet how she stacks up against the whole group. But I had a lot of people tell me how good she was (before she arrived). Everything they’ve all said about her is true. She is who she is, she is who they thought she was. If anything, she might be a little better than they thought she was.

“It’s been a lot of fun to have her in the barn. I’m very grateful to have her.”

Oakwoodanabella is not eligible to the Breeders Crown. The cost to supplement is $62,500. Supplemental entries are due by noon Monday.

“That’s a longshot, just because it’s so expensive,” Brown said. “Right now, Test Of Faith looks unbelievable. The back half she paced the other day, I don’t know if I’ve seen a horse race any better than she did. Plus, there are several other fillies that are good fillies.

“It’s a conversation we’ll have because we have to know by Monday. I’d sure love to take her to the Breeders Crown, I’d like to try it, but I don’t know if I want to try it at $62,000.”

Live harness racing begins at 6:00 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Northfield.


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