07/23/2007 12:00AM

Banach brigade finally heats up


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The hot barn is a potent but unexplained phenomenon in the world of horse racing.

And fortunately for Sky Conqueror, who is trained by Darwin Banach and owned by Bill Sorokolit, his stable rediscovered its groove just in time for Sunday's $698,200 Northern Dancer Stakes here at Woodbine.

Heading into last Friday's card, the Banach barn had been on a 29-race losing streak, with its last win coming here May 18.

The Real Me finally broke the ice on Friday, and Anna's Ballerina followed suit on Saturday.

Then, at the same time Banach and Sorokolit were attending an informal press conference following Sky Conqueror's Northern Dancer score, The Queen's Stamp won the day's final race for the outfit's fourth win in five starts.

"It's amazing," said Banach later, as he celebrated Sky Conqueror's second win in as many editions of the Northern Dancer. "I only thought this happened in team sports. But then horses start winning, everybody's on a high. Positive vibes just start flowing, and horses can sense them.

"When our horse won Friday, I said, 'We're going to have a good weekend.' "

Sky Conqueror will try to continue to go with the flow, but he has a wide range of options for his next appearance.

Banach and Sorokolit mentioned the Grade 1 Arlington Million on Aug. 11, the same day's Gradeo1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, and the Gradeo2 Nijinsky here Aug. 26 as possible targets for Sky Conqueror.

The Arlington Million is a 1 1/4-mile race while the Sword Dancer and Nijinsky go at 1 1/2 miles.

Sorokolit did stress that the major long-term goal for Sky Conqueror is the Oct. 21 Canadian International rather than the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Turf at Monmouth Park. Both are Grade 1 races at 1 1/2 mile races, with the Canadian International worth $2 million and the BC Turf $3 million.

"We ran at Monmouth with Classic Stamp a few years ago," said Sorokolit. "The turf course can be a little tricky, if you're not used to it."

Jambalaya solid again

Jambalaya, who had finished third in last year's Northern Dancer, ended in the same position this year in another solid effort.

"He comes to the dance and gives it his all," said Catherine Day Phillips, who trains Jambalaya for her Kingfield Farm.

Jambalaya also is a possibility for the Arlington Million, Sword Dancer, or Nijinsky.

"Distance-wise, maybe a mile and three-eighths is more his suit," said Day Phillips. "He loves to go blasting off the turns, and that's a tough thing to do on this course. We may go looking for a shorter race."

Prado's first local wins yield stakes double

Edgar Prado, who rode Sky Conqueror for the first time in the Northern Dancer, was completing a sweep of the day's major races after capturing the Grade 2, $304,900 Dance Smartly with Masseuse.

Prado also stuck around to win the finale aboard The Queen's Stamp.

The wins were the first at Woodbine for Prado, whose 11 previous mounts here had included second-place finishes with Rebel Rebel in last year's Woodbine Mile, Marcavelly in the same day's Summer Stakes, and Changeintheweather in the 2003 Dominion Day.

Masseuse's win in the Dance Smartly was also the first here for trainer Jim Toner, who had just six starters here dating back to 1994.

Sent off as the second choice behind Arravale, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, Masseuse benefited from a heady ride by Prado to hold off May Night, the only other shipper in the field of six.

"She had her head down at the right time," said Toner. "She's tough and competitive. She tries hard."

Masseuse left Monday for Saratoga and could make her next start there in the Grade 3 Glens Falls, a $100,000 race at 1 3/8 miles on turf Sept. 3.

"We're planning on running her there," said Toner. "We'll see how it shakes out."

Arravale, making her first start since winning the E.P. Taylor Stakes here last Oct. 22, led to the top of the stretch in the Dance Smartly before weakening to finish last, beaten 9 1/4 lengths.

"From what we could see, she came back all right," said Mac Benson, who trains Arravale for owner Bob Costigan. "Nothing went according to plan. It wasn't the ideal place to start."

Arravale had been scheduled to return here in the June 2 Nassau at 1 1/16 miles, but the filly injured a leg and had to be put on hold.

Benson also felt that the lack of speed in the Dance Smartly worked against Arravale.

"I was afraid that was going to happen, that we weren't going to be able to get in behind horses," said Benson. "She kind of ran off for a half-mile."

Mixed blessings for Pierce

Sunday was a day of ups and downs for trainer Malcolm Pierce, who watched She's Indy Money became a stakes winner under Garrett Gomez in the $138,400 Ontario Matron and Elle Runaway miss by just a neck and a nose under the same rider in the Dance Smartly.

"That was a good bit of business for She's Indy Money," said Pierce. "And, I thought Elle Runaway ran the race of her life. She never gave up."

Pierce already had experienced a setback heading into the card when Stradivinsky, who would have been favored in the $125,000 Bold Venture, came up with a chip in his ankle early last week, putting an end to his season.

Stradivinsky was scheduled to leave for Florida on Tuesday and will undergo surgery there.

"We'll give him all the time in the world, because he's such a nice horse," said Pierce.

Jiggs Coz to have surgery

Trainer Sid Attard was happy to fill the void in the $125,400 Bold Venture, sending out both first-place finisher Gangster and runner-up Just Rushing.

Gangster, owned by Goldmart Farm, recorded his first stakes victory in his 30th career outing.

Attard also had some bad news to report, as Jiggs Coz, the talented 3-year-old whom he trains for Mel Lawson, is out for the season after coming up with a small chip in his left ankle.

Jiggs Coz was favored in both the Queen's Plate and the Prince of Wales, finishing third here and second in the Fort Erie showpiece. He has been sent to Kentucky and will undergo surgery there.