It was nine years ago this week that trainer Mike Keogh was getting a horse ready for a critical start in the Breeders' Stakes, third jewel in Canada's Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, at Woodbine.
That horse's name was Wando. And it was Wandomania running wild in 2003.
Sunday, Keogh has his best chance to return to the Breeders' winner's circle with the improving Ultimate Destiny, runner-up to filly rival Dixie Strike in the Prince of Wales, the middle leg of the series, at Fort Erie.
"He's good," Keogh said. "He came out of the Prince of Wales well. He breezed on the (training) turf (Sunday) and went five-eighths (of a mile) in (1:00 1/5). He broke behind another horse and got to him at the wire."
A look at the Dance to Destiny colt's eight-start past performance chart shows two wins and four seconds and Beyer figures that have improved in every start.
"He's sharp right now. He's a good-feeling horse," Keogh said. "He gave a little squeal when I let him go (Tuesday morning). Mentally, he's improving. He's a slow learner, but each race he's getting better."
While Keogh, who also guided Woodcarver to a Queen's Plate win in 1999, has his best recent chance at winning the Breeders' with Ultimate Destiny, the emotions, not surprisingly, are muted compared to the week leading up to Wando's coronation.
"There's no comparison," Keogh said. "It was unbelievable. I was ill; sick to my stomach on the day of the race."
Keogh also sends out Street Fight in the Breeders', a promising maiden son of Street Sense, owned by U.S.-based Dogwood Stable.
"Dogwood trains in Aiken (South Carolina, where Keogh spends the Woodbine off-season) and Mr. Campbell (Cot, president of Dogwood) said he had a Canadian-bred he wanted to send me," Keogh noted. "So we've messed around with (Street Fight) and changed a couple things. He looks like he'll get the (1 1/2 mile) trip the way he is in the mornings."
He'll be ridden by Jermaine Bridgmohan, while Steven Bahen, who won the Breeders' in 1997 with John the Magician, will guide Ultimate Destiny for the eighth straight time.
WILL IT BE THE SAMMY MAUDLIN SHOW IN THE BREEDERS'?
Sammy Maudlin, named after a character on SCTV, the popular Canadian sketch comedy television program, could deliver trainer Catherine Day Phillips her third victory in the Breeders' Stakes, third and turf jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, Sunday at Woodbine.
The first female conditioner to win the 1 1/2-mile event, a feat she accomplished with A Bit O'Gold in 2004, Day Phillips was back in the winner's circle one year later, this time with Jambalaya.
Now, she'll look to notch the Breeders' hat trick with Sammy Maudlin, a gelded son of Medaglia d'Oro, who heads into Sunday's race on a winning note after a maiden-breaking score at 1 1/8 miles over the E.P. Taylor Turf on July 15.
"I thought it was a very nice effort," said Day Phillips, of the victory that yielded a career-best 78 Beyer figure. "He settled well. He was a little green once he got to the front, looking around a little bit, but we'll forgive him for that."
While the betting public might not have thought he had a winning chance in his debut, sent off at 30-1, the bay, at one point tenth of 14 in the race, was fifth at the stretch call before winding up second, two lengths behind Breeders' rival, Wilcox.
Sent off at 7-2 in his next start, a 1 1/4-mile turf race on June 17, Sammy Maudlin was collared late, finishing a head back of Attendant at the wire.
"He was a little bit green," recalled Day Phllips. "He was quite aggressive and he was fighting Jesse (jockey Campbell) early. But he ran on hard at the end against Attendant, who went on to run very well (third) in the Toronto Cup."
His most recent performance, a three-length triumph as the mutuel favourite, prompted Day Phillips to supplement the Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry-owned Ontario-bred to Sunday's race for $12,500.
"After his first race, when you have a horse that is really well-bred for turf, the Breeders' is always in the back of your mind," noted Day Phillips. "He was a big and gangly guy as a two-year-old, but we were patient with him, making sure he was ready to race. He's put on more and more muscle and he's continued to develop nicely. Hopefully, he comes up with another big effort on Sunday."
Jesse Campbell, aboard Sammy Maudlin in all three of his starts, once again gets the call.
THE SCORE TO SHOW BREEDERS' STAKES
The Score will televise the Breeders' Stakes in a special presentation from 4:30 pm ET - 5:30 pm ET. Post time for the final jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown is 5:12 pm ET (Race 9).
Jason Portuondo, Jim Bannon and Sandy Hawley will analyze the action, while Dan Loiselle will call the race.
The telecast will offer a feature on jockey Jesse Campbell, who will ride Sammy Maudlin in the 1 1/2-mile turf race.