04/14/2006 12:00AM

A Bit O'Gold targeting a summer campaign

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
A Bit O'Gold, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, is back in training at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A Bit O'Gold, Canada's Horse of the Year in 2005, is back at Woodbine.

But don't expect to see A Bit O'Gold, the 5-year-old gelding who also was voted champion older male and champion turf male last year, in the entries any time soon.

"We're looking at the summertime," said trainer Catherine Day Phillips, who sent out A Bit O'Gold to win 3 of 7 starts and $597,336 last year. Afterward, he got a Florida vacation.

"He had a little break in Ocala," she said. "We gave him four months off. He's just back in training now. He's almost a month away from breezing."

In the meantime, Day Phillips will be looking forward to the return of Jambalaya and Invitational, a pair of 4-year-old turf specialists.

Jambalaya, a gelding, won the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' here and the Grade 3, 1 3/16-mile Saranac at Saratoga and was runner-up to A Bit O'Gold in the Sovereign Award turf male vote.

Day Phillips said Jambalaya has "a few half-miles under his belt," and his first stakes target is the Grade 3, $150,000 Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 4-year-olds and up here May 28.

"Our main goal is to get him ready for the Northern Dancer," she said. "That's his focus of the year."

The newly named Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf, a Grade 2 with a purse of $700,000, will be run at 1 1/2 miles at Woodbine on July 23.

Invitational, a filly, won the 1 1/4-mile Wonder Where and the 1 1/8-mile Carotene in her first campaign.

"She's not quite as far along as Jambalaya," said Day Phillips. "She's just about to start breezing again, but she gets herself fit."

If all goes well then Invitational would be a "possibility" for the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares here June 3.

Bellini Sunrise shut out of Whimsical?

Trainer Danny Vella had been looking forward to running Bellini Sunrise, a lightly raced Kentucky-bred 4-year-old filly whom he trains for owner Amy Seltzer, in Sunday's $125,000 Whimsical Stakes.

But when the entries for the Whimsical came out Thursday, Vella found himself between a rock and a hard place.

The Grade 3 Whimsical, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares, 4 and up, attracted a surprising 15 entrants from a list of 23 nominees.

With the field limited to 14 and preference based on earnings, Bellini Sunrise is listed as the lone also-eligible.

"It certainly was a shock to me," said Vella. "I just don't know what to do now. I'll have to take a long look at the pp's."

Although trainer Reade Baker has named jockey Jim McAleney to both Bosskiri and Gold Strike in the Whimsical and very well might scratch one of the two, he is not bound to do so.

And, as Vella said, one scratch still would leave Bellini Sunrise with the less-than-ideal prospect of breaking from post 14.

Bellini Sunrise will be listed on the program, and Vella can reserve his decision on whether or not to run until race day.

In he meantime, Vella's enthusiasm runs high regarding Bellini Sunrise's prospects.

"I'm very attached to the family; she's closely related to Holzmeister," he said. "I kind of took a liking to her right at the start."

Bellini Sunrise and Holzmeister both are out of the Danzig mare Harbour Club, and were sired by sons of Mr. Prospector.

Trained by Vella for his 2-year-old campaign in 1996, Holzmeister won 3 of 4 starts, with his only loss a second-place finish to stablemate Cash Deposit in the Grade 3 Grey at Woodbine.

Holzmeister's wins that year include Woodbine's Swynford and the Hawthorne Juvenile.

Knights Templar returns in Star Shoot

Vella will have no concerns about making the main body of the field for next Sunday's Star Shoot with Knights Templar.

A Florida-bred who was Canada's champion 2-year-old filly last year, Knights Templar is the top money-winner among the 19 Star Shoot nominees with $304,117.

Knights Templar, winner of the Ontario Debutante at six furlongs and the Grade 3 Mazarine at 1 1/16 miles here last year, wound up her campaign with a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont.

In her only start this year, in the restricted six-furlong Sunshine Millions Oaks at Gulfstream on Jan. 28, Knights Templar had a rough start yet was prominent early before fading to sixth.

"She really had a bad trip," said Vella. "The inside was very cuppy, and she was stuck down there. You could see early that she was spinning her wheels. She was trying, but she was very frustrated."

Vella thinks Knights Templar, who had been training at Adena Springs South, should be much tighter after the Gulfstream outing.

"She was probably a work or two short of her best," said Vella. "We'd been working her on a faster track."

Knights Templar has been very impressive in the mornings since returning to Woodbine, including a five-furlong bullet work in 59.60 seconds on Tuesday.

Robert Landry, aboard for the drill, has the call for the Star Shoot.