07/11/2007 12:00AM

Artie Hot out for a breakthrough


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - While the major event of the weekend will be Sunday's $500,000 Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, the 3-year-olds also will get to strut their stuff here at Woodbine in Saturday's Toronto Cup.

The Toronto Cup, an open 1 1/8-mile turf race, could prove to be a coming-out party for Artie Hot.

Artie Hot comes into the Toronto Cup off a third-place finish at 20-1 in the one-mile Charlie Barley here June 24. The Charlie Barley was Artie Hot's first trip over the local turf course, and he launched a six-wide rally to finish four lengths behind the winner after steadying behind traffic on the final turn.

Trainer Nick Gonzalez, however, is reluctant to use Artie Hot's trip as an excuse to a higher finish.

"When you get beat four or five lengths, you don't want to say if he would have got a clear run he would have won, because that's a pretty big distance," said Gonzalez. "But he's a big, long-striding horse, and he just can't quicken again once he loses his momentum. When a horse like that gets in trouble, he just doesn't regroup like a smaller, more agile horse."

Trouble and Artie Hot have been frequent companions since Gonzalez and owners Carlo and Lou Tucci claimed the gelding for $30,000 at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 9.

"I'd watched him run, and he's a big, good-looking horse," said Gonzalez. "I just got lucky and won a four-way shake for him.

"But he's very, very difficult horse to ride. You've really got to keep him covered up as long as you can and just make that one run. If you don't, he'll give it to you down the backside, and he'll be empty when they come down the stretch."

Artie Hot followed just such a pattern in the Feb. 9 race over 1 1/16 miles on turf, streaking from eighth to first within the space of a quarter-mile but faltering to finish third. Artie Hot pulled a similar stunt in his first start for his new interests on Feb. 28, rallying from ninth to open up a clear lead with a furlong to run but yielding late to finish second in a $40,000 claimer over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"The horse that he'd blown by at the head of the stretch came back and beat him," said Gonzalez.

But it was Artie Hot's next trip at Gulfstream, in a first-level allowance over 1o1/16 miles on grass, which Gonzalez singles out as his worst ever. After getting off to a slow start, Artie Hot was attempting to come between rivals entering the stretch, but then was body-slammed by a lugging-in rival and finished ninth.

"It was bad," said Gonzalez. "The kid was right out of the saddle and almost came right off him."

With the Gulfstream meeting in the books, Artie Hot came north and contested a first-level allowance over seven furlongs on the main track here May 5. For once, Artie Hot's journey was relatively uneventful, and he was a three-quarter-length winner at 24-1.

Gonzalez then tried Artie Hot two weeks later in the Grade 3 Marine over 1 1/16 miles, and he was a respectable fourth at 26-1.

"We were pleasantly surprised when we ran him on the Poly and got that win out of him," said Gonzalez. "And in the Marine, he was sitting perfect and was getting covered up real good, but was the victim of such a slow pace.

"After he ran that race he showed me that he was not only a good turf horse, like I knew he was, but he also had some talent to run like he did on that Poly, because that wasn't an easy race."

Jono Jones will take over aboard Artie Hot for the Toronto Cup, which is the last open turf stakes of the meeting for 3-year-olds.

The Toronto Cup will be the 18th start for Artie Hot, who began his career at Calder last June 24, and Jones will be his ninth rider.

Change of plan for Poachers Moon

Poachers Moon had been under consideration for the Toronto Cup, but trainer Roger Attfield called a last-minute audible and entered the colt in the Prince of Wales.

"We feels he's an up-and-coming horse," said Attfield, who sent out Poachers Moon to breeze four furlongs in 48.80 seconds on the training track here Wednesday morning with regular rider Chantal Sutherland in the irons.

"He worked well on the dirt here, which is similar to the dirt at Fort Erie as far as I'm concerned. He looked very good, and Chantal said he felt good, so we're prepared to have a go."

Red Birkin likely to ship again

Red Birkin, a 3-year-old filly whom Attfield trains for Haras Santa Maria de Araras, breezed four furlongs in 50.40 seconds on the turf training course here Wednesday morning.

A Kentucky-bred turf specialist, Red Birkin shipped to Monmouth for the Grade 3 Boiling Springs on June 30 and finished first only to be disqualified and placed third for causing interference.

Attfield said Red Birkin would make her next start in either the $200,000 Virginia Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile turf race at Colonial Downs on July 21, or the Grade 3, $100,000 Lake George, a 1 1/16-mile turf race at Saratoga on July 27.

Light work for Leonnatus Anteas

Leonnatus Anteas also breezed four furlongs on the training track here Wednesday, going in 50.20 seconds in his first workout since he was scratched from the Queen's Plate.

"It was good, nice and easy," said Kevin Attard, who trains Leonnatus Anteas for Knob Hill Stable and the estate of Steve Stavro. "He was just itching to do something."

Leonnatus Anteas, Canada's champion 2-year-old last year, had been seen as a contender for the June 24 Queen's Plate despite having made only one start this season. But the colt developed an infected pastern and was shipped to the University of Guelph's veterinary clinic the day before the race.

"There's no game plan for him right now," said Attard. "We're just taking it day to day."