Sister act


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History was made at Assiniboia Downs on Wednesday night when sisters Hidden Grace and Melisandre ran 1-2 in the $40,000 Distaff Stakes, and what a run it has been for multiple champion Hidden Grace.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/09/2022 (266 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

History was made at Assiniboia Downs on Wednesday night when sisters Hidden Grace and Melisandre ran 1-2 in the $40,000 Distaff Stakes, and what a run it has been for multiple champion Hidden Grace.

Full sisters have never run 1-2 in a stakes race in Manitoba, and maybe not even in Canada. It’s an extremely rare occurrence, and the moment was captured for eternity outside the winner’s circle on Wednesday, when the siblings were brought together for a special photo.

“That was special,” said Barry Arnason, who bred and owns Hidden Grace in partnership with Cam Ziprick and Charles Fouillard. “We have to get that one on the wall. I can’t recall something like this ever happening before. It’s been fantastic, an unbelievable ride, and I’m just sad to see it end.”

Jason Halstead / Assiniboia Downs Photo

Hidden Grace (right) is ridden to victory by jockey Renaldo Cumberbatch in the Distaff Stakes Sept. 7, Assiniboia Downs. At left is Hidden Grace’s full sister, Melisandre.

Trainer Lise Pruitt had tears in her eyes in the winner’s circle, and Arnason admitted, “I don’t cry much, but I felt it inside. From a breeder’s perspective, next to Escape Clause, Hidden Grace is something spectacular, especially when you’re in the twilight of your career. You just savour these moments, because a lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this over the years. To see it all come to fruition is an emotional thing. I have to admit, it was a special moment.”

Arnason also owns Island High, the two-year-old full sister to Hidden Grace and Melisandre, which he purchased as the sales topper for $52,000 at last year’s Manitoba CTHS Yearling Sale.

“She’s just so big we just don’t want to mess with her much this year,” said Arnason. “We still have her in training, getting her ready for her three-year-old campaign. She’d be like Hidden Grace or maybe even bigger.”

Arnason and Ziprick have bred the two best Manitoba-bred mares in history, Escape Clause and Hidden Grace, the latter in partnership with Charles Fouillard. Jockey Renaldo Cumberbatch rode both horses and revelled in their high quality, but Hidden Grace will always have a special place in his heart.

Cumberbatch was aboard Hidden Grace for her first lifetime start in the Debutante Stakes in 2018 and won that race along with eight more stakes in a row aboard her, before missing two years here due to pandemic restrictions.

On his return to Assiniboia Downs this year, Cumberbatch didn’t have the mount on Hidden Grace for her first two starts, when she finished second and third in the La Verendrye Stakes and Canada Day Stakes respectively, but he was back aboard for her third start this year to win the Escape Clause Stakes. He followed that up with a win in an allowance race and in the aforementioned Distaff Stakes. In total, Cumberbatch rode Hidden Grace in 12 of her 27 starts, including 11 stakes, and won, every, single, time.

“She’s an amazing horse,” said Cumberbatch. “I’m very thankful to the owners and all the connections in the barn for having faith in me and letting me ride her. It takes teamwork to help a horse become as good as she was, to become a champion, and everyone did a fantastic job with her.”

Escape Clause earned more than $1 million from a record of 20-5-4 from 35 starts and was honoured with the 2018 Sovereign Award as Canada’s Champion Older Mare before being sold to Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm in Japan for $300,000, where she is now being bred to the best stallions Japan has to offer.

Hidden Grace has won multiple local championship honours and earned over $400,000 from a record of 18-4-4 in 27 starts. She will likely begin her breeding career locally with Manitoba stallion Speculating.

Speculating is the only son of Travers Stakes (G1) winner and top North American sire Medaglia D’ Oro standing in Canada for Ziprick and Fouillard. All his dates take place at Fouillard’s Farm in St. Lazare, Man. Later plans for Hidden Grace may include a visit to a stallion in Kentucky, after which the partnership will bring their champion home to foal yet another Manitoba superstar.

Manitoba-breds have dominated the two-year-old races this year, winning eight of the 11 races carded so far, and no one in the local breeding industry can remember anything like this happening before. Speculating’s first crop of youngsters looks dynamite, but he’ll face some solid competition from fellow Manitoba stallions Vengeful Wildcat, Nonios and Ziprick’s other stallion Kentucky Bear, all of whom have sired talented two-year-old winners and stakes winners this year.

Ziprick, who has been the leading breeder in Manitoba for at least a decade, is looking forward to the competition, which is healthy for the industry and has led to local breeders upgrading their stock to the point where their horses can now compete anywhere. But he is going to miss watching Hidden Grace.

“I never go in the paddock,” said Ziprick. “But I went in there for the Distaff, just because it was her last race. All last winter, we were deciding whether we should run her again or breed her and I told Barry, ‘I go out there and feed her twice a day, and I just kind of stand there and look at her. She just commands attention.’ Such a beautiful mare. I think we were all pretty emotional after the race on Wednesday.

“We all had a little cry to send her off.”

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