07/22/2003 11:00PM

A $25,000 claim in a $137,000 stakes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - La Grande Mamma turned heads when she streaked to a 15 1/2-length victory in her first career start, a 5 1/2-furlong dash here July 4.

One onlooker who was particularly pleased with the performance was trainer Steve Owens, who had dropped a $25,000 claim slip for the 2-year-old filly La Grande Mamma on behalf of owner Don Leibowitz, who campaigns under the nom du course Great Plyer.

"I was just watching her work one morning," said Owens. "She was an athletic-looking individual. She looked like she wanted to go further; she galloped out strong."

Owens will be looking to recoup the investment, and then some, when he sends out La Grande Mamma here in Saturday's $137,375 Nandi, a six-furlong race restricted to Ontario-sired fillies.

And despite stepping up from the claiming ranks, La Grande Mamma's first-out Beyer Speed Figure of 71 is the best among the Nandi entrants, and she figures to go off as the favorite Saturday.

"She ran huge in her first race and she has moved forward since then," said Owens. "She's doing very, very well. I'm very pleased."

La Grande Mamma has turned in two sharp works for the Nandi, going five furlongs in 1:00.20 here July 12 and four furlongs in 48.60, breezing, on Monday.

"She can do anything, she's tractable," said Owens, who has been working the filly in company.

"The further she goes, the better she's going to get. She's got turf in her pedigree, too - she's basically all-around. The fact she's Ontario-sired is a bonus."

La Grande Mamma would not be the first 2-year-old claimed by Owens to make good in stakes company.

Avies Covergirl, claimed for $10,000 from her second start, became Owens's first stakes winner, winning the Glorious Song in the fall of 1993.

Speed Gun, claimed for $25,000 from his second outing, won the Grade 2 Summer here in his third try in the Owens barn here in 2000.

Hawk Lake Fire, claimed for $25,000 from her third start in 1995, won Monmouth's Lady's Secret as a 5-year-old.

"I always find claiming 2-year-olds is the way to go," said Owens.

Sheer Enchantment debuts in Nandi

Sheer Enchantment will be making her first lifetime start in the Nandi, after being purchased privately by the Kelynack Racing Stable of Glenn Harvey from trainer Mark Casse.

"I was looking for an Ontario-sired filly," said trainer Abraham Katryan, who will send out Sheer Enchantment.

"I really liked her when I first saw her; she caught my eye," Katryan said. "She has a good way of going."

Sheer Enchantment, a daughter of Archers Bay and the Regal Classic filly Classic Fergie, was a $10,000 buy at Fasig-Tipton's open yearling sale here last September.

Katryan has enjoyed success previously with a pair of 2-year-olds purchased from Casse.

One of them is Whispered Warning, who was acquired following a third-place finish here in the Swynford last September, and then went on to win a first-level allowance and wind up his campaign with a fourth-place run in the Display Stakes.

Katryan said Whispered Warning had been sidelined with a "minor injury," but is back in training and might be ready for his 2003 debut in about a month.

Another one-time Casse-trained runner who was purchased by Katryan is Ceremonial, who was unraced at the time of purchase but is now a winner of 2 of 9 starts and $95,257.

Heyahohowdy points to Victoriana

Heyahohowdy, winner of two turf stakes and a Sovereign Award finalist in the filly and mare turf division last year for SVGB Stable, has been purchased privately by Harvey, and will make her debut for the Kelynack outfit in the Aug. 4 Victoriana.

Heyahohowdy made her first start here in the June 30 Zadracarta, finishing a troubled fourth in the six-furlong turf sprint. A 4-year-old, Heyahohowdy is a leading contender for the $125,000 Victoriana, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

Wake at Noon adds new dimension

Katryan still is reveling in the fact that Wake at Noon, the 6-year-old who was Canada's Horse of the Year and champion sprinter last year, added a new wrinkle to his game by winning the 1 1/16-mile Izvestia here on Sunday.

Wake at Noon also had been entered in Saturday's 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture as a back-up plan, since the Izvestia is an overnight stakes that would not have been contested without at least five entrants.

Owned and bred by Bruno Schickedanz, Wake at Noon had not raced around two turns since the 2000 Queen's Plate, in which he finished fifth. He had entered the Plate off a third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Marine, which was his only other try beyond one mile.

"He's getting a little bit older, and I always thought of him going two turns here," said Katryan, who knows well that winning a stakes race going long will add to Wake at Noon's appeal when he retires to a life at stud in Ontario.

"Bruno and I were thinking about him along those lines. It looks good on his resume."

Wake at Noon is nominated to the 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup, a $125,000 stakes here Aug. 3. "It's a possibility, but it might be too soon back," said Katryan. "We're going to try and pick his spots."

* Shane Ellis will sit out Friday through Sunday, withdrawing his appeal to a suspension ruling. Ellis has been acting as his own agent since parting company with Glen Buttigieg, who has taken over the book of the Jerry Baird.