05/06/2003 11:00PM

Blinkers off helped Mobil and others


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The addition of blinkers to a horse's equipment has been a much ballyhooed improvement angle for horses who need to focus more in their races, but the removal of blinkers also has been an effective angle at Woodbine this spring.

Removing blinkers can help anxious horses to relax. A prime example came in last Saturday's Queenston Stakes, in which Mobil figured to be sharp in his first start of the year, as he was when he dead-heated for first only to be disqualified and placed second in the Nov. 2 Coronation Futurity. Trainer Mike Keogh opted to take the blinkers off Mobil for the Queenston, even though the horse had been racing well with them.

Mobil relaxed kindly in a stalking position early in the seven-furlong Queenston. He dropped back a little on the turn, and then came charging in the stretch for a comfortable victory.

"He rated nicely on the backside," Keogh said. "The reason we took the blinkers off is because he was so rank in the Coronation."

Other Woodbine trainers who have fared well with the blinkers-off angle since the beginning of 2002 include Mike DePaulo, Mike Mattine, Scott Fairlie, Joanna Iglar-Hughes, Paul Buttigieg, Norm DeSouza, Mark Frostad, and Eric Garcea.

Garcea, a little known trainer who was based at Hastings Park until a few years ago, has won with two of his last four starters who shed the hood, including Lady Vye, who closed from far behind to win last Sunday's ninth race at 30-1.

Bias report

Three front-runners who faded badly while running against a closers' bias April 18 at Woodbine - Pleasingagentleman, Miss Gold Dee, and Jakes Wildindian - came back to win at Fort Erie. Cobblers Rock bucked that bias to capture a $32,000 claiming race in his first start of the year, and subsequently won a Woodbine allowance race at 7-1.

April 26: The rail was like quicksand, and several horses who saved ground stopped badly. Horses who ran against the bias were Joan Paul Jones, Take the Mickey, Rob the Streaker, No Givin Up, Devil's Scripture, Sandmannli, Stable Unrest, Dr Wow, Rockfield, Banderberg, Strikingly, Six Jiggles, Regal Wings, Bert's Bar, Commander Hal, Krz Ruckus, Anglian Prince, Four Alert, Branksome Hall, Fatima's Princess, Green Canyon, and Sandyfourthofjuly.

Fort Erie, April 23: A strong outside bias surfaced on the third day of the meet, and many riders stayed well off the rail during the latter portion of the card. Horses who ran against the bias included March Million, Seanomore Greek, Rosie's Shamrock, Golden Returns, Canyon Secret, Feelitfirst, Robot, Island King, Winner's Bid, Crumpet, Amber Ale, and Gaellic Warrior.

Fort Erie, April 24: The rail was also dead this day, with some riders going well out of their way to avoid the inside. Horses who saved ground included Keyboard, Spooners Hill, Pouring Rain, Pierced Navel, Hugs for Terry, Force Ministre, Bevie's Dare, B. Nimble Jak, Van Patten, and Therapy.

Therapy, a 5-year-old maiden, had recorded a remarkable 10 straight second-place finishes heading into his race, in which he folded in the stretch after pressing the pace and finished last.

Trainers worth following

Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Meyer won with two of his three starters at the meet last week, including winter-raced Bella Bambola, who hadn't earned any money in six outings prior to winning her maiden at 25-1 Sunday.

Trainer Sid Attard, traditionally a little slow out of the gate in the spring, had clicked with five of his 10 starters through Sunday, and has won with 27 percent of his starters at the meet. Two of his winners last week - Highland Honey and Royal Distraction - were both returning from a layoff of nearly 1 1/2 years.

Trainer John Charalambous scored with two 3-year-old fillies last week, both of whom rallied along the rail under Steven Bahen - Angel in Tights and first-time starter Real Beauty, who paid $58.90.