Barry G. Wiseman, assistant trainer to Jonathan Sheppard, leads just as well in the paddock before the Northern Dancer. Julien Leparoux up.
Though Just As Well Won the $750,000 Northern Dancer Turf (Can-IT) Stake Due to Marsh Side’s Disqualification, a Review of the Race Shows Jonathan Sheppard’s Colt to be Much the Best!
Following a lengthy inquiry, Ontario Racing Commission stewards decided that the Neil Drysdale trainee Marsh Side, clinging to a narrow lead under right-handed urging from jockey Javier Castellano approaching the sixteenth pole, impeded both Quijano to his immediate inside, and the favored Champs Elysees, rallying at the rail.
Marsh Side, who went on to win by a half-length, was placed fourth, behind Champs Elysees. But Just as Well, blocked by the wall of skirmishing horses, lost ground when forced to circle the field. His amazing turn of foot once he saw daylight convinced this reviewer that Just as Well, was who almost nipped Marsh Side and finished second, was much the best!
Just as Well, bred by George Strawbridge, is out of the 2000 Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) winner No Matter What. Just as Well, now sporting a mark of 19-5-5-3, $978,155, is in career-best form at the age of six. After placing in the Gulfstream Park Turf S. (G1), Maker's Mark Mile S. (G1) and Dixie S. (G2) earlier this season for his owner/trainer, the dark bay broke through with his first stakes coup in the Arlington H. (G3) in July. Just as Well followed up with a solid second to divisional leader Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat) in the Arlington Million (G1) last time out.
Sheppard had mixed feelings about the result, which was Just as Well's first grade I win.
“I feel badly," he said. "Neil (Drysdale) is a good friend. He’s got an awfully good horse. He possibly was the best horse but he certainly beared across the course in the late stages.
“Even though we weren’t really the recipient of it, I give Julien a lot of credit because he easily could have been in the melee. I think he saw it coming up and managed to sneak out from behind them and have a clear run down the middle. The horse ran a superb race.”
“We thought coming out of two consecutive 1 1/4 races where he was closing well that this is a good time to try him at the 1 1/2-mile (distance),” said Sheppard. “Julien got him settled very nicely. He relaxed for him and he came with his run. He probably just took a while extricating himself. If he had a clear run right when they first turned from home he maybe would have got there anyway.”
This reviewer believes he definitely would have gotten there. The final time for the 1 1/2-mile event was a swift 2:26.68 on a firm course.