07/16/2006 11:00PM

Ambitious Cat a stakes winner at last

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It was a long time coming, but Ambitious Cat finally cracked through for her first stakes score in last Saturday's Grade 2, $305,900 Dance Smartly here at Woodbine.

Ambitious Cat, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old by Storm Cat, had made seven previous appearances in turf stakes, never finishing worse than fifth or beaten more than 3 3/4 lengths.

Last year, Ambitious Cat's second-place finishes here in the Grade 2 Nassau and Grade 2 Canadian and her close third in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor helped her take home the Sovereign Award in the filly-mare turf category despite her lack of a stakes score.

And it looked like more of the same this year when Ambitious Cat made her local debut and again finished second in the Nassau, beaten three-quarters of a length by shipper Naissance Royale.

There was no doubt in the Dance Smartly, however, as Ambitious Cat rallied assertively under new rider Todd Kabel to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

"It's nice for her to win one," said Eric Coatrieux, who trains Ambitious Cat for the Chiefswood Stable of Robert and Mark Krembil. "It was a legitimate race; she beat some nice horses."

Prior to the Dance Smartly, Coatrieux had stated that Ambitious Cat was in the best shape of her career.

"She'd had some issues with her feet for a long time, and they were slow to heal," said Coatrieux. "She came into this race extremely well."

The key, according to Coatrieux, was outfitting Ambitious Cat with a new type of footwear that he referred to as Curtis Burns shoes.

"I've used the shoe on her since I was in Florida with her this winter," said Coatrieux. "It's really helped her. It's a glue-on shoe; it's very flexible."

Coatrieux himself is flexible in terms of Ambitious Cat's next start, although repeat appearances here in the Sept. 17 Canadian and the Oct. 22 E.P. Taylor are on her long-term agenda.

"There's not much here for her in August," said Coatrieux. "If we were to look for a race for her, she'd probably have to go out of town."

Trophy presenter earns one herself

Is it better to give or to receive?

Tammy Samuel-Balaz, an integral part of the team behind Sam-Son Farm super filly Dance Smartly, was in the winner's circle to present the trophy to the connections of Ambitious Cat.

Three races later, Samuel-Balaz was on the receiving end of the presentation after French Beret, owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, became a stakes winner in the $150,800 Toronto Cup.

A homebred, French Beret was recording his first stakes victory in the Toronto Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.

Under Kabel, who earned his second stakes win of the day, French Beret moved into the stretch to open up a clear lead but prevailed by just a half-length over a closing Moka Jumbie.

"If he gets the lead too early he starts goofing around, doesn't switch leads, " said Frostad. "Todd had to keep his mind on things; he's still learning."

Frostad also was pleased with the Toronto Cup performance of Looktotherainbow, who finished a closing fourth while making just his second career start.

Looktotherainbow, also a Sam-Son homebred, had run fourth when debuting in a maiden special at 1 3/8 miles on turf here June 15.

"I was really happy with him," said Frostad. "I tried to enter him in a maiden race here Friday, but he was excluded, so I had to go into the stakes with him."

Both French Beret and Looktotherainbow are being pointed to the Aug. 6 Breeders' Stakes, the 1 1/2-mile turf race that is the final leg of Canada's Triple Crown.

Shoal Water to try Northern Dancer

Sam-Son and Frostad also plan to take the plunge with Shoal Water in Sunday's first running of the Grade 2, $700,000 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf, a 1 1/2-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward.

Shoal Water, a homebred 6-year-old gelding, made his first start in almost two years here in the July 3 King Edward and finished fourth in the field of six, beaten 1 1/2 lengths at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

"He ran a lot better than we had reason to believe he would," said Frostad. "Coming back in three weeks, we're worried about the bounce. You'll see him at his best in the fall."

Frostad's decision to run Shoal Water also was influenced by the fact that a short field is expected for the Northern Dancer, which attracted just 19 nominees and lost a number of candidates to the recent United Nations and other races south of the border.

Midnight Shadow steps up

Midnight Shadow gave trainer Bob Tiller his second 2-year-old stakes winner in as many weekends by capturing Sunday's $150,400 Shady Well.

"She's an improving filly," said jockey Ray Sabourin, who guided Midnight Shadow to her second win in three career outings. "She's starting to come to hand."

Tiller, who trains Midnight Shadow for Frank DiGiulio and partners, believes Midnight Shadow's effort was even better than it looks on paper.

"She really didn't behave going to the paddock," said Tiller. "I have to be very happy with her race, but I believe she'll do even better."

Midnight Shadow defeated Ontario-foaled fillies in the five-furlong Shady Well, and actually faces the prospect of a less demanding assignment in the five-furlong Nandi for Ontario-sired fillies here Aug. 5.

"I really think she'll go a lot further," said Tiller. "But, we're in that five-eighths game right now."

After piloting Midnight Shadow to her neck victory, Sabourin hopped a helicopter to Fort Erie and picked up his share of second money in the $500,000 Prince of Wales aboard Pipers Thunder, who finished third but was moved up upon the disqualification of first-place finisher Malakoff.