08/01/2007 11:00PM

Benson targets another Breeders'

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mac Benson won his first Breeders' Stakes here in 1979 with Bridle Path, who was ridden by Sandy Hawley.

Five years later, Benson won his second Breeders' with Bounding Away, who was ridden by David Clark.

On Sunday, Hawley, Benson, and Clark all have connections to the $500,000 Breeders', the 1 1/2-mile turf race that is the final leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Hawley, 58, retired from the saddle in 1998 and now holds the position of public relations ambassador for the Woodbine Entertainment Group. He also is a regular on Woodbine broadcasts and will be appearing in the one-hour Breeders' Stakes special beginning at 4:30 p.m. on The Score.

Benson, 77, will be saddling Ice Bear, a homebred 3-year-old gelding whom he trains for George Strawbridge Jr.'s Augustin Stable.

Clark, 53, is Ice Bear's regular rider.

Ice Bear began his 3-year-old campaign with an eye toward the Queen's Plate, but a pair of subpar performances on Polytrack prompted a switch to turf.

After finishing second in a first-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs, Ice Bear became a stakes winner in the one-mile Charlie Barley.

But in his most recent start, which came in the 1 1/8-mile Toronto Cup on July 14, Ice Bear failed to fire and finished fifth.

"I was very disappointed, naturally," Benson said. "David didn't seem to think he liked the soft going through the stretch."

Although the course was listed as firm, there had been rain during the afternoon and a scheduled turf race later on the card was moved to the main track.

Ice Bear, who was supplemented to the Breeders' at a cost of $12,000, had a minor setback here last Sunday when he failed to make time while working five furlongs in a special turf training session.

Benson responded by bringing Ice Bear to work Monday on the main track, with his five-furlong breeze in 59.40 seconds the second-best of 29 at the distance.

"I just didn't think he did enough the day before," Benson said. "He hasn't run good off a slow work."

Ice Bear had breezed five furlongs in a slow 1:04.40 six days prior to the Toronto Cup.

The challenge now facing Ice Bear, not to mention the other Breeders' contestants, is the 1 1/2-mile distance.

"Since we've taken the blinkers off him, we've got him to settle," Benson said. "David is an exceptional judge of pace. I think he'll be able to put him somewhere where if he'll go a mile and a half, he'll have some kick to finish."

Cotey ships pair to Assiniboia

Angel of the House and Dance to My Tune, both trained by Dave Cotey, shipped out for Winnipeg on Thursday morning for engagements on Monday's Civic Holiday program at Assiniboia Downs, which has been added to the simulcast menu here.

Angel of the House's target is the $100,000 Manitoba Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, while Dance to My Tune is going for the $45,000 Assiniboia Oaks, a one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.

Cotey, who owns a half-interest in all of his horses, will be making his fourth trip to the Manitoba Derby and is looking for his third victory.

His first success came as an owner, when trainer Sandy McPherson sent out Wafare Warrior to win the 1999 edition.

In 2001, the year in which he took out is trainer's license, Cotey won the Manitoba Derby with Stage Classic.

Two years later, Pants N Kisses finished third in the Manitoba Derby and stablemate Truth Serum ended second in the Winnipeg Futurity on the same card.

Wafare Warrior, Stage Classic, Pants N Kisses, and Angel of the House all were bred in Kentucky, which is one reason Cotey is a Manitoba Derby patron.

"There's nothing here this time of year for American-breds," Cotey said.

"And it's never as tough there as it is up here. If you've got a horse that's a shade under the best here, you can be a big fish in a little pond. Here, you're trying to play David and Goliath all the time."

Angel of the House has made his last five starts in open stakes races, finishing third in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Marine and second in the Toronto Cup.

On Monday, Angel of the House will racing on dirt for the first time.

"I don't think it will matter," Cotey said. "His mother won all her races on dirt.

"He tries pretty hard and he's always done well wherever he runs. But they say horses for courses, so you really don't know until they get out there and run. Dance to My Tune is in the same boat."

Dance to My Tune is coming off a solid third-place finish in an optional claimer/second-level allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles here July 20.

"She's not a real big filly and two and a half weeks back might be a little quick for her," Cotey said. "She seems to give it her all every race.

"But I think this is a good spot. We've tried the best with her twice here and got our butts kicked. This is a chance to get a little black type on her."

Rohan Singh, the second-leading rider at Assiniboia Downs heading into the long weekend, has the call on both Angel of the House and Dance to My Tune.

* Anthony Stephen recorded his first win at Woodbine on Wednesday night aboard Buenisima ($65.10), who is trained by Eric Garcea. Stephen, who had ridden at Hastings and competed in Macau and India this year before moving his tack to Ontario, is represented by Neal Wilson.