08/10/2004 11:00PM

Attard pair shoot for sire stakes sweep

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Steve Attard, without much fanfare, has been having a solid meeting here.

And Attard, 42, could be in a position to make plenty of noise on Saturday, with contenders for both $125,000 Ontario Sire stakes on the program.

Attard will be firing one shot with Dillinger, in the 6 1/2-furlong Shepperton for 3-year-olds and up, and another with Rosharon, who is in the Victoriana, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Both Dillinger and Rosharon are in fine form, but both will be seeking their first stakes scores, too.

A 5-year-old gelding, Dillinger was claimed for $40,000 from his second and final outing at 2 and has earned $325,609 in 25 starts for Astor Racing Stable.

Dillinger just missed in last year's Shepperton, beaten a neck as the runner-up, and was just a head back as the second-place finisher in the 2002 Bold Ruckus over six furlongs on the turf.

Dillinger began his current campaign on a disappointing note, failing to finish in the top three in his first three starts.

"He wasn't carrying his weight good this year," said Attard. "He's always been a light horse; I just wasn't happy with him.

"His races weren't bad, but he just wasn't right."

Attard identified a cut in Dillinger's mouth as the potential root of his problems.

"He wasn't holding the bit right," explained Attard. "Once he had his teeth done, he changed overnight. He was a happy horse again."

Dillinger demonstrated his gratitude in his last start, on Aug. 2, winning smartly under third-level allowance terms at six furlongs.

Apprentice jockey Corey Fraser was aboard for the first time that day and retains the mount in the Shepperton, a race which Attard admits hadn't really been part of a long-term plan.

"It's actually sooner back to his last race than I'd like," said Attard. "But I try to nominate to everything, in case it comes up light.

"And he ran so well last time; I thought he won easily. He really impressed me."

Rosharon 'never better'

Rosharon, a 5-year-old who had won only 2 of 18 starts heading into this season, is coming into the Victoriana in search of her fourth straight victory.

"She's never been better," said Attard. "A horse with confidence is always dangerous."

Rosharon had finished a distant seventh in the 2003 Victoriana for her owner and breeder Les Pereira, who has been in the spotlight recently as the breeder of A Bit O'Gold.

Last fall Rosharon dropped into the claiming ranks, and was unable to find the range until she competed for a low of $22,000 in her 10th and final start of the season here Nov. 29.

Rosharon returned to action here May 22, finishing seventh in a first-level allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on turf, but Attard was very encouraged by her performance.

"I didn't think she was ready to run, and she didn't run a bad race," said Attard.

"She came out of the race really good. It was amazing; she's just been a different horse since."

Rosharon began her roll by trouncing $40,000 nonwinners-of-three over 1 1/16 miles on the turf, then doubled up in a first-level allowance over 1 1/4 miles, also on the turf. Todd Kabel was aboard for both victories.

"When she makes the lead, she tries to pull herself up a bit," said Attard. "Kabel rode her fantastic."

But when Rosharon made her next start here July 30, in a second-level allowance over a mile on grass, Kabel was otherwise engaged. Constant Montpellier was in the irons for the first time, and Rosharon overcame a less-than-ideal journey to win by a head.

"She tried to run over horses," said Attard. "Down the backstretch Constant was checking her, checking her. Having that one race on her under his belt is really going to help."

Trainer Mareina accepts fine

Trainer Mike Mareina paid a $5,000 fine after the stewards ruled he had failed to bring Minister Mike to the paddock for the third race here Aug. 4.

The six-furlong race, originally scheduled for turf but switched to the main track, had eight entrants but three became official scratches, and Minister Mike's defection left a field of four.

Owned by Kuehne Racing, Minister Mike is a 3-year-old colt by Deputy Minister out of the Forty Niner mare, Forty Carats, and was purchased for $100,000 at the Keeneland July yearling sale.

Minister Mike had been preparing for turf, and Mareina, who said he was not present on the day in question, supported the decision by the owners not to race the colt on the dirt and accepted responsibility for the infraction.

Mareina questioned Woodbine's policy regarding off-the-turf scratches, pointing out that some jurisdictions allow scratches down to three horses under such circumstances.

Steve Lym, Woodbine's racing secretary, explained that scratches in off-the-turf races are submitted to the stewards, who try to maintain a field size that suits the race's betting profile (for example, six horses for a triactor, eight for a superfecta).

If more scratches are requested, the stewards will ask the race office to oversee a draw in which a neutral observer pulls the names of the horses who will be allowed to come out of the race. Barring exceptional circumstances, a field of at least five will be maintained.