05/30/2006 11:00PM

Ambitious Cat has Sovereign, but not a stakes

Patrick Lang / Lang Photography
Noble Stella could make her next start in the New York Handicap.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Ambitious Cat's consistent record in top-class company was enough to earn her the nod as Canada's champion older female turf horse last year.

But Ambitious Cat still has a gap in her resume, as she has yet to win a stakes race, and will be looking to rectify that situation here at Woodbine in Saturday's Grade 2 Nassau at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"I like where she is at the moment," said Eric Coatrieux, who trains Ambitious Cat for the Chiefswood Stable of Bob and Mark Krembil. "We're kind of hoping she becomes a stakes winner."

Ambitious Cat, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old, finished second in the Grade 2 Nassau and Grade 2 Canadian last year and concluded her campaign with a bang-up third-place finish behind Honey Ryder and Latice in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor.

After freshening up for a couple of months, Ambitious Cat returned to action at Gulfstream on March 4, finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Honey Fox at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

In her next and last start, at Keeneland on April 15, Ambitious Cat ended fifth in the Grade 2 Jennie Wiley at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"Those were tough races," said Coatrieux. "She only got beaten about three lengths in each one."

Ambitious Cat returned to Ontario at the end of April and has been training at her home base of Chiefswood Farm. She shipped into Woodbine to work a half-mile on the main track in 48 seconds last Saturday.

Regular rider Patrick Husbands has the call on Ambitious Cat, who will face six rivals in the Nassau.

Pipers Thunder steps up for Trial

Chiefswood and Coatrieux also plan to be represented in Sunday's feature, with Pipers Thunder slated to make his stakes debut in the $150,000 Plate Trial.

Pipers Thunder has raced just twice, finishing sixth in a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream on March 19 and then winning his maiden at 1 1/16 miles here May 13.

"He's at a stage where we need to go if he's going to be as good as this kind," said Coatrieux, regarding Pipers Thunder's Plate Trial venture. "I do like him, a lot."

Coatrieux sent out Niigon when he finished second in the Plate Trial and then won the 2004 Queen's Plate.

This year's running of the $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, is scheduled for June 25.

Noble Stella may return to Belmont

Noble Stella and Pellegrino, both trained by Roger Attfield, are getting back into their routines here after competing in out-of-town stakes races over the U.S. holiday weekend.

Noble Stella, a 5-year-old mare, fared the better of the pair, finishing a solid second behind Honey Ryder in Saturday's Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Belmont.

Pellegrino, a 7-year-old horse, ended an even fifth in a six-horse field for Monday's Grade 3 Louisville Handicap, a 1 3/8-mile turf race at Churchill Downs.

Noble Stella, who had won the Grade 3 Bewitch at 1 1/2 miles on turf at Keeneland in her last start, made all the pace in the Sheepshead Bay and finished strongly when challenged.

"Briefly, turning for home, I thought we might pull it off," said Attfield. "You have to give her a big 'A' for effort. She ran a tough race. She's a genuine type."

Attfield is uncertain as to his next move with Noble Stella.

"She may go back to Belmont for the New York Handicap," said Attfield. "Originally, I thought I might do what I did last year, and shorten her back for the Dance Smartly. I still might do that."

The New York Handicap, a Grade 2, $150,000 turf race at 1 1/4 miles, will be run June 24. The Dance Smartly, a Grade 2, $300,000 turf race at 1 1/8 miles, goes here July 15.

Noble Stella won the Dance Smartly last year.

Pellegrino, who was transferred to Attfield late last year, had won the Grade 3 Elkhorn at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Keeneland when he made his first start for his new barn on April 28.

"I thought he should have run a little bit better on Monday, but he wasn't beaten too far," said Attfield. "He was coming back in a month, and he might be the kind of horse who needs more time between his races; he's getting older."

Pellegrino's next scheduled engagement is the Grade 2, $700,000 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf, a 1 1/2-mile race here July 23.

Longtime workout clerk retires

Marilyn Mark, who has been a member of Woodbine's clocking staff for more than 25 years, retired after working her final shift here Wednesday morning.

Mark, whose duties in recent years included maintaining the morning work sheet for the main track, has no particular plans for the immediate future.

"I have to clean out my basement," she said. "That will take a year."

Woodbine has hired two new "sheet-writers" this year, Yvonne Kaiser and Luba Kalnins, who will rotate between the main track and training track.