09/30/2010 12:03PM

Academicienne liable to run better in return to Woodbine

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Academicienne didn’t make much of an impression in her first two trips to Woodbine.

But Kiaran McLaughlin, who has been training Academicienne at Saratoga, has reason to believe that his 4-year-old filly can give a better accounting when she returns for Saturday’s $100,000 Belle Geste Stakes.

The Belle Geste, a seven-furlong overnight turf stakes for Ontario-foaled fillies and mares, attracted a field of six, headed by stakes winners Sugar Bay, Mullins Beach, and Indian Apple Is.

Academicienne, a winner of 2 of 5 starts when beginning her career in France, joined McLaughlin in New York last June and promptly shipped north for the Woodbine Oaks.

After breaking awkwardly in that 1 1/8-mile feature for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, Academicienne showed some late life to finish fifth but was beaten 12 1/2 lengths by the victorious Milwaukee Appeal.

“She didn’t run that badly, but she didn’t run that well, either,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin was forced to regroup with Academicienne and she had not raced for more than a year when she returned here for the June 19 Zadracarta.

“She lugged in badly,” said McLaughlin, who watched Academicienne finish 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner in that seven-furlong overnight turf stakes for fillies and mares. “We worked on her, and she ran a much improved race last time.”

That most recent outing came in third-level allowance company over 1 1/16 miles of turf at Monmouth Park on Aug. 20.

After racing seventh in the field of eight early, Academicienne launched a three-wide move around the final turn and finished well only to fall a length short of front-runner Becky’s Exchange, one of two stakes winners in the field.

“She did lug in again a bit, but not nearly as bad,” said McLaughlin. “She’s continued to train good, and she’s doing well.

“Seven furlongs is a question mark, but it looks like a good spot.”

Patrick Husbands, who rode Academicienne for the first time in the Zadracarta, has the mount.

Sugar Bay, a homebred 5-year-old trained by Mac Benson, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the Belle Geste off her closing third-place finish in the Sept. 5 Avowal over the same distance and surface.

Luis Contreras, who rode Sugar Bay to her first win of the season here Aug. 13, was back in the irons for the Avowal and retains the mount.

Mullins Beach, a 4-year-old trained by Malcolm Pierce, also ran in the Avowal and was a disappointing fifth.

“It wasn’t a bad race,” said Pierce. “She’s had a couple of good breezes since then, and she’s a filly that’s going to enjoy the cooler weather we’re expecting Saturday.

Eurico Rosa Da Silva, who had been Mullins Beach’s regular rider but was serving a suspension and was replaced by Jono Jones for the Avowal, regains the mount.

Sand Cove may try Bunty Lawless next

The Roger Attfield stable recorded its meet-leading 11th stakes victory here Wednesday night when Sand Cove scored by 2 1/2 lengths under rider Jono Jones in the Overskate, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

Sand Cove, a 5-year-old horse trained by Ralph Johnson, was coming into the $127,400 Overskate off a third-place finish as the 2-5 choice in the 1 1/16-mile Elgin, a yearling sales stakes here Sept. 5.

“His blood showed a bit of a virus in his system,” said Attfield, “so we gave him a freshening-up on the farm. The change of scenery did him a lot of good.”

Attfield said he would nominate Sand Cove to the $125,000 Bunty Lawless, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward here Oct. 23, but that he also has Society’s Chairman headed to that race.

Lots of stakes action for Attfield runners

Attfield will be looking to add to his stakes totals with Rag and Bone entered in the Belle Geste; Palladio going in Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Durham Cup, and Jacally in the same day’s $150,000 Carotene; and Impossible Time on target for Wednesday’s $125,000 Classy N Smart.

Rag and Bone has been well-beaten in two starts since winning her seasonal bow under second-level allowance terms.

“She’s been disappointing, but she did have some excuses,” said Attfield. “Her blood’s been a little bit off.”

Palladio, an 8-year-old, won the 1 1/8-mile Durham Cup in 2008 and will be looking to bounce back from a string of sub-par efforts on Sunday.

“If he gets upset at the gate, it’s all over—he just doesn’t do anything,” said Attfield, adding that Palladio’s current problems prior to the start stem from a situation last winter in which he refused to be loaded on a plane heading from Florida to California.

“I’d just like to see him have a nice experience at the gate, and see if he wants to do it any more or if he’s just had enough.”

Commission denies LeBlanc’s appeal

Trainer John LeBlanc’s appeal of a stewards’ ruling which had upheld Fifty Proof’s allowance win here July 22 was dismissed by the Ontario Racing Commission at a hearing on Wednesday.

LeBlanc, who sent out runner-up Peter’s Charisma in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, had claimed that the door on Fifty Proof’s starting gate had opened prior to the others and that the horse should have been declared a non-starter.

The stewards ruled that Fifty Proof’s door had opened slightly ahead of the others but that no advantage was gained.

Dan McMahon represented LeBlanc, whose testimony was supported by Nick Nosowenko, trainer of fourth-place finisher Full of Wisdom.

Gunnar Lindberg acted as counsel for the stewards and the key testimony came from starter Ian Ross, who stated that the starting gate mechanism had functioned properly and that all horses received a fair start.

Steward Bill McMahon, Fifty Proof’s jockey Justin Stein, and owner David Willmot also spoke against the appeal.

Willmot, chairman of the board of the Woodbine Entertainment Group, owns Fifty Proof in partnership with John Fielding and Ben Hutzel.

ORC rule 11.16 states that a horse is a starter “when the stall doors of the starting gate open in front of it at the time the starter dispatches the horses in a valid start.”

Rule 17.01.03 states that the stewards’ “decision as to the validity of a start shall be final.”