Paynter's 3-year-old filly Merveilleux put herself in the spotlight for divisional honors after collecting her second consecutive stakes win in Saturday's $150,000 Ontario Damsel S. at Woodbine.
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Merveilleux won the $250,000 Wonder Where S. in late October and has won three of six overall in 2020, as well as an unlucky third after a very rough trip in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.
Facing just five foes Saturday, Merveilleux settled into third, just a couple lengths from the front as the field entered the backstretch. She held that spot until just outside of the quarter pole, when she swung three-wide to go for the lead. Avie's Samurai was a momentary threat, by Merveilleux quickly asserted herself, going on to win by 3 1/4-lengths in 1:44.37 on the synthetic surface.
“I just wanted to make sure to get the right move, at the right time,” said winning rider Rafael Hernandez. “I didn’t want to get it too early and then flatten out in the lane, but everything worked good in the whole race.
With the win, Merveilleux is now 4-3-1 in 11 starts and has earned $374,649 for owners Al and Bill Unwelling.
“The championship is not based on one or two months of the year, it’s over the season, and she’s obviously gotten better as the season’s gone on and she’s at the top of the division right now,” said trainer Kevin Attard. “We’re just happy that she’s progressed like we wanted her to and hopefully she turns out to be a nice four-year-old.”
Merveilleux was a $150,000 purchase by her owners out of the 2019 OBS Spring 2-year-old sale. She was bred by Mike Carroll and is a granddaughter of two-time Grade 1 winner By Land By Sea.
Paynter has had a terrific 2020 and is currently the leading Fourth-Crop sire in several categories. Among his eight stakes winners are Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) record-setter Knicks Go, Pimlico Special (G3) winner Harpers First Ride and Astra S. (G3) winner Ms Peintour.