07/20/2010 12:20PM

Biofuel among Woodbine regulars heading to Spa

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The local troops are gearing up to invade Saratoga, with several horses set to make stakes appearances there in the early stages of the meeting, which begins Friday.

Biofuel, who is trained by Reade Baker, left Tuesday morning for Saturday’s Coaching Club American Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies that offers Grade 1 status and a purse of $250,000. Her regular rider, Eurico Rosa da Silva, has the mount.

If all goes well, then Biofuel will be making a return trip to New York for the Grade 1 Alabama, a 1 1/4-mile race for 3-year-old fillies that is worth $500,000 and will be run Aug. 21.

Roan Inish, winner of the Woodbine Oaks and third in the Queen’s Plate for trainer Carolyn Costigan, also is pointing for the Alabama.

Essence Hit Man, Woodbine’s top local 3-year-old with three stakes victories to his credit this year, is eyeing the Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam, a 6 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds on Aug. 2.

Chantal Sutherland has been booked to ride Essence Hit Man for trainer Audre Cappuccitti.

“I really don’t want to go out of town, but there’s nothing for him here,” said Cappuccitti, who also is the co-owner and breeder of Essence Hit Man in partnership with her husband, Gord.

Bay to Bay, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old filly who excels on turf, could have faced males on Woodbine’s turf course in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Toronto Cup but instead is heading to Saratoga for Wednesday’s Lake George. The Lake George, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $150,000.

“It’s the Grade 2, more than anything,” said trainer Brian Lynch of the decision to opt for the Lake George over the Toronto Cup. “We think there’s more to be gained.”

Trainer Roger Attfield also is looking at the Lake George on behalf of Perfect Shirl, who has come into her own with back-to-back wins here in maiden race on turf and a first-level allowance on Polytrack, and No Explaining, a second-level allowance winner on the turf here last time out.

But the Woodbine-based trainer with the most ambitious Saratoga agenda is Mark Casse, who has five horses penciled in for stakes appearances and others for possible maiden and allowance races in a plan that fluctuates daily.

On Sunday, Casse plans to ship out Barracks Road, Exclusive Love, Pool Play, So Elite, and Tasty Temptation.

Exclusive Love will be first up, with her engagement being the Lake George. A Kentucky-bred, Exclusive Love was an impressive winner of a first-level allowance over one mile of turf here June 25.

“I’m excited about running her there,” said Casse. “She’s training extremely well.”

Tasty Temptation, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old, has moved to the top of her class on the main track here this year. Winner of the 1 1/16-mile Hill ‘n’ Dale in her last start, Tasty Temptation will be trying dirt for the first time in the Grade 1, $250,000 Ruffian, a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares on Aug. 1.

So Elite should be making his dirt debut in a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, with the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy on July 31 and the $70,000 Curlin on Aug. 1 being his options.

“We’ll see how tough the Jim Dandy is shaping up,” said Casse, who sent out So Elite to record his first stakes win in the Charlie Barley over one mile of turf here July 3.

Pool Play, coming off a close second-place finish here in the Grade 3 Dominion Day at 1 1/4 miles, could run in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up on Aug. 7. Casse said he could opt to run the Ontario-bred 5-year-old in an allowance race.

Barracks Road, coming off her first stakes score in the Ontario Damsel here over one mile of turf, is slated to compete over that same distance and surface in the $70,000 Hattie Moseley, an overnight stakes on Aug. 7. Assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan, a Saratoga veteran in other guises, will be running the show for Casse at Saratoga.

Jim Mazur and a handicapping contest

Handicapper/author Jim Mazur will be on hand here Sunday to host the Woodbine/Saratoga handicapping challenge.

Prize money for the contest will be $27,500 if all of the 275 available spots are filled. Advance registration is available at the player’s services desk on the second floor.

The registration fee is $100, with a maximum of two per person. Players also must put up a $40 bankroll, to be used for 10 $2 win-place bets split evenly between races at Woodbine and Saratoga.

Mazur also will host a seminar here Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. on the third floor of the grandstand. Free copies of his “Saratoga Handicapper” will be available, courtesy of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Armata appeals fine, suspension

Trainer Vito Armata has appealed a 45-day suspension and $1,500 fine that were issued following a stewards’ ruling on a positive test for the Class 3 drug acepromazine, commonly used as a tranquilizer.

Molinaro Gioello finished second for Armata and owner Gino Molinaro in her first start back on April 4, but then came back with the positive blood test. The filly was prohibited from racing for 90 days, April 16 through July 14, under the Ontario Racing Commission’s owner responsibility rule.

Armata’s case was not heard until July 10, after the results of a split sample had become available, and the ruling was released late last Friday.

The trainer’s lawyer, Dan McMahon, argued that that the sample had been compromised during transport to Louisiana State University and thus should be considered negative.

The stewards did not accept the defense and the case now will go before the Ontario Racing Commission at a date to be announced.

w Jockey Mike Smith was fined $200 for striking his mount, fourth-place finisher Giant’s Tomb, more than three times in succession during the stretch run of the Queen’s Plate.