11/18/2010 1:15PM

Benson to take a break from horses this winter

Michael Burns
Sugar Again, with Luis Contreras up, wins the Ruling Angel.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Mac Benson, who turned 80 this past summer, has wintered his horses at Payson Park for more than 20 consecutive years. But that streak is about to end as Benson, who along with his partner, Barb Przedrzymirska, owns a home within hailing distance of the Florida training facility, will not be taking any horses south after the meeting ends up here Dec. 5.

“Truthfully, I’m looking forward to it,” said Benson, who has been training horses for more than 50 years and was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2002.

“I’ll get some fishing in, maybe paint the place.”

Benson will fill the Payson Park gap by sending some of his younger horses to the Webb Carroll Training Center in South Carolina.

“He can leg them up for me, and have them ready for me in the spring,” said Benson. “I don’t know yet where the older horses will go.”

And in the meantime, Benson has some unfinished business at Woodbine Racetrack.

“I should have about eight more starts,” said Benson. “Everybody’s in good shape, if they can get races to run in.”

One horse whose race was guaranteed to go is Sugar Again, a 3-year-old who will be seeking her second consecutive stakes victory in Sunday’s $150,000 Bessarabian for fillies and mares.

Sugar Again, bred in Pennsylvania by George Strawbridge Jr., also had been under consideration for Saturday’s $175,000 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs but the owner had two other 3-year-old fillies nominated to that turf race and opted to go with Fugitive Angel.

“Mr. Strawbridge doesn’t like to run his horses against each other,” said Benson.

That philosophy was evident here late last month when Sugar Bay, trained here by Benson, was entered in the River Memories but scratched in favor of Fantasia, a Strawbridge shipper who won that overnight stakes for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.

Sugar Bay also was nominated to the Bessarabian but will be on the sidelines while the up-and-coming Sugar Again attempts to enhance her credentials.

Sugar Again, tabbed as a very promising prospect by Benson after winning her second and final start as a 2-year-old, has fulfilled that promise this season with 3 wins and a second-place finish from 4 starts.

Coming off her first stakes win over fellow 3-year-old fillies here in the 6 1/2-furlong Ruling Angel, Sugar Again will have to deal with another half-furlong and older rivals, but Benson believes she will be up to snuff on both counts.

“She’s already beaten older fillies, and she worked very well the other day,” said Benson, who sent out Sugar Again to breeze five furlongs in 1:00.80 here Monday.

Sugar Bay to go through auction ring

Sugar Bay is entered in the January horses of racing sale at Keeneland and may have made her last start.

“She’d be going out on a winning note,” said Benson, who sent out the 5-year-old Sugar Bay to capture the Belle Geste, a seven-furlong turf race for Ontario-foaled fillies, here Oct. 2.

Her overall record stands at 8wins, 4 seconds, and 2 thirds for earnings for $753,546 from 19 career starts.

Sugar Bay was second in the Sovereign Award voting for the 3-year-old filly category after putting together a four-race stakes win streak during which she captured the seven-furlong Duchess and 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette on the main track and the one-mile Ontario Colleen and 1 1/8-mile Carotene on the turf.

Euro Platinum up in time

Euro Platinum, sent off at 40-1, was up in the final strides under jockey Jono Jones for a nose victory over the favored Barracks Road in the $150,800 Jammed Lovely here Wednesday night.

The seven-furlong Jammed Lovely, for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies, was the 12th start and second career victory for Euro Platinum, who is owned and trained by Audre Cappuccitti.

“I never dreamt in a million years that this filly would take nine races before she broke her maiden,” said Cappuccitti, who had sent out Euro Platinum to graduate over 1 1/16 miles here Oct. 11.

“She’s a lovely big filly, really a good-looking filly. I liked her so much as a 2-year-old, but I sent her home, with little problems. Just baby stuff.”

Euro Platinum began her career this April, and while she did show promise in a couple of third-place finishes this spring but was struggling during the summer.

“She had a little problem in her shoulders,” said Cappuccitti, who addressed the issue with veterinary and chiropractic treatments.

Those adjustments, plus taking the blinkers off Euro Platinum, bore fruit in her maiden victory and a subsequent second-place first level-allowance finish on the turf.

“After that I nominated her to this stakes, only because it was the end of the year and it was for Ontario-foals,” said Cappuccitti. “I really thought she’d run well, but it was tough company.”

Euro Platinum’s stakes success now has earned her a winter in Florida, where she will be heading along with Cappuccitti’s multiple stakes-winning 3-year-old gelding Essence Hit Man and stakes-placed 2-year-olds Top Pit Boss and Whippit.

“She’s a versatile filly,” said Cappuccitti. “She’s actually better on turf, I think.”

Rockin Heat sill looking for a win

Rockin Heat, a 2-year-old colt who has finished second in each of his four starts, will be looking to make the breakthrough in a 1 1/16-mile race here Sunday.

“I have a concern that he hasn’t polished one of them off yet,” said Reade Baker, who trains Rockin Heat for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion. “But, he’s run against some pretty nice horses.”

Rockin Heat’s conquerors include Pluck, who won the Grade 3 Summer Stakes and came back to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and Blue Laser, winner of the Grade 3 Grey over 1 1/16 miles.

Rockin Heat is nominated to the $150,000 Display, an open 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds here next Sunday.

And while Baker will not rule out an appearance there by Rockin Heat he already has Bears Future, Moonshine Mullin, and possibly Bear’s Chill for that stakes.

Time Alert to appear for retirement fund event

Saturday will be LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Day here at Woodbine with a calendar giveaway, autograph sessions with some of Woodbine’s top jockeys, and a photo opportunity with Time Alert, a 21-year-old son of Secretariat, among the highlights.

Time Alert will be on site from noon until 2 p.m. at the entrance to the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Racing Hall of Fame, at the west end of the racetrack.

Bred in Ontario by Kinghaven Farm, Time Alert raced from 1992 until 1999 and compiled a record of 14-15-5 from 66 starts for earnings of $104,045.