05/02/2005 11:00PM

Attfield gets hot just in time


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Roger Attfield's barn was cold at Gulfstream but started to heat up at the Keeneland meeting.

Now Attfield is back in full force at Woodbine, with his maximum allotment of 45 stalls filled to capacity.

"We didn't do any good at Gulfstream, but we were running real longshots anyway," said Attfield, who arrived here late Friday and sent out Seeking the Carat to win last Saturday's fourth race. "It was an exceptionally dry winter there, and the turf course was so hard and fast it jarred a lot of horses up. We were waiting for Keeneland; we were basically sitting on grass horses."

The outlook improved significantly at Keeneland, where Attfield sent out three winners, all on the turf, and finished in the money with 50 percent of his 14 entrants. Lone Arrow, a 4-year-old gelding, got the ball rolling by capturing a first-level allowance April 15, and Palladio, a 3-year-old colt, won under similar terms April 23. Caesarion, a Group 3 stakes winner in France who joined Attfield this winter, captured a second-level allowance April 27.

Both Caesarion and Lone Arrow are candidates for the Grade 3, $150,000 Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile race here May 29, which is the first turf stakes of the meeting.

The turf course is scheduled to open May 15, with the running of the Connaught Cup prep. And for Attfield, whose barn is top-heavy with turf horses, grass racing can't start soon enough.

Ablo may skip Queenston

Ablo, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity here last fall, came into the 2005 season as Attfield's leading hopeful for the $1 million Queen's Plate.

But Attfield said he is on the fence about Ablo's participation in Saturday's $150,000 Queenston, a seven-furlong stakes that is a potential stepping-stone to the June 26 Queen's Plate at 1 1/4 miles.

"He trained very well this morning," said Attfield on Tuesday. "The idea was to run him once at Keeneland and then run him in the Queenston. But if I feel I have to miss that race, it wouldn't be the end of the world. He's got a lot of training into him and he has a big advantage, having run a mile and an eighth as a 2-year-old."

Ablo, who wintered with Attfield at Payson Park, made his seasonal bow at Keeneland in a difficult second-level allowance over seven furlongs, where he finished last of seven.

"He ran opening day, and the track was really deep and cuppy," said Attfield. "He didn't enjoy it at all. He pulled himself around, and got quite muscle-sore."

South Bay Cove sent to farm

South Bay Cove, Attfield's leading hopeful for the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, arrived at owner Bill Graham's farm last Sunday after suffering a setback while training at Payson Park last month.

Attfield said he had intended to use Sunday's Fury Stakes, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, as South Bay Cove's first step on the road to the 1 1/8-mile Oaks here June 12.

"She pulled something up in her back," said Attfield. "We couldn't afford to have something like this happen to her right now."

South Bay Cove, who won two stakes here last summer, was runner-up in the Sovereign Award voting for her division after having her campaign cut short by a hairline fracture in a front leg.

Verne's Baby works half-mile

Verne's Baby, who is scheduled to make his stakes debut in the Queenston, breezed four furlongs in 48.80 seconds under regular rider Emile Ramsammy on a fast main track here Tuesday.

Owned and bred by George Bigliardi, Verne's Baby romped in his maiden special debut here last Dec. 11 and recorded his second straight win in an entry-level allowance April 23.

Both successes came over five furlongs of sloppy going and in Ontario-sired company, and Verne's Baby earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 in his April 23 win.

Verne's Baby is trained by Sid Attard, who also reports that champion One for Rose could make her first start of the season in the May 15 Hendrie Handicap.

One for Rose, winner of back-to-back Sovereign Awards in the filly and mare category, has been away since romping in the Grade 3 Maple Leaf over 1 1/4 miles here last Nov. 13.

The Hendrie, a Grade 3, $150,000 race for fillies and mares, is run at 6 1/2 furlongs, which would mark the shortest race of One for Rose's career.

Also eyeing the Hendrie is Nashinda, who won the six-furlong Whimsical here April 17 in her first start since last July.

Nashinda, trained by Mac Benson, breezed four furlongs in 47.60 under exercise rider Jackie Wyatt here Tuesday. The drill was the fastest of 13 at the distance on the main track.