06/01/2010 11:00PM

Buttigieg off to fast start, eyeing bigger races

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Paul Buttigieg has been training horses for almost 40 years. And, with the exception of a fling in the spotlight with the talented sprinter Rushiscomingup in the late 1990s, the 63-year-old Buttigieg generally has stayed beneath the radar.

It's been hard for Buttigieg to avoid attracting attention this spring, however, as he had sent out five winners from 28 starters heading into Wednesday night's program at Woodbine while adding two wins from four starts at Fort Erie.

Last year, Buttigieg had seven winners from 109 starts at Woodbine and two from 28 tries at Fort Erie.

"It's been a fantastic year," Buttigieg said Wednesday morning. "I knew I had some nice horses, and I put them away early last year."

One case in point is Gypsy Ring, who won his maiden and was stakes placed in the Deputy Minister here in 2009 before Buttigieg called it a season at the end of August. After opening his current campaign with a close second-place finish in a first-level Ontario-sired allowance, Gypsy Ring has moved through his first two restricted conditions in smart fashion at 5 1/2 and then six furlongs.

"I'm looking at the New Providence for him," said Buttigieg, with reference to the $125,000, six-furlong feature for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up that will be run next Wednesday evening. "He's my best horse right now, but I think The Boy's Ring will come along."

The Boy's Ring, like Gypsy Ring, is a homebred 4-year-old gelding by Where's the Ring. He is coming off a third-place finish in a first-level allowance and breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 here Wednesday morning.

Last year, The Boy's Ring won his maiden and then just missed in the Bold Ruckus Stakes before being sidelined in mid-July.

Buttigieg's other winners at the meeting were the maiden winners Officeinthevalley, in a no-tag restricted race; Wigamog, with a $23,500 claiming price; and Getting Bold, for $16,000 claiming. Officeinthevalley won his career debut, while the others were scoring in their first start of the season.

Getting Bold has come back to finish a close second for $20,000, and Wigamog was the runner-up in a restricted first-level allowance.

Officeinthevalley is a homebred owned by the trainer, while Getting Bold was purchased by Buttigieg for $9,500 at a preferred session of the yearling sales here. Wigamog was bought by owner Gary Vasey for $12,000 at the same venue a year earlier.

"I have mostly homebreds," Buttigieg said. "I got into the broodmare business about eight years ago and own 25 broodmares."

Buttigieg, who has 18 stalls here, begins his day at Woodbine at 5 a.m. and generally is back home by 11 a.m., taking care of business on the farm where he has another dozen of his own racehorses. Located in nearby Egbert, Buttigieg Training Centre has 150 stalls and has been in operation for some 30 years.

The property is a favored location during the off season for the stock of local trainers, including long-term client Bob Tiller, Steve Attard, David Bell, and John Charalambous. All have spoken well of the care their charges received there.Meanwhile, the one place you will have difficulty finding Buttiegieg is on the frontside during racing hours.

"I'm busy at the farm," Buttigieg said. "I don't go to the races unless I'm in the stake. You can see just as much on TV, and I have a very good assistant, Ricky Hayashi, who has been with me a long time and can take care of things for me there."

Attfield sending pairs to Saturday stakes

Two Grade 1 winners are slated to see action here Saturday, with Rainbow View entered in the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau and Mast Track in the Grade 3, $150,000 Eclipse.

The Nassau is a one-mile turf race for fillies and mares, and the Eclipse a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race for 4-year-olds and up.

Trainer Roger Attfield has entered two starters in each stakes, with Miss Keller and Missit in the Nassau and Palladio and Sligovitz in the Eclipse.

Miss Keller, a 4-year-old, raced in Ireland before joining Attfield last summer. After recording her first North American win under second-level allowance terms over one mile of turf at Keeneland this April 7, Miss Keller came back to finish third in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs.

"Her last race was terrific," Attfield said. "She got into a little bit of trouble. I've always liked her a lot, and she's actually doing really well right at the moment."

Missit, who began her career in England and then went to trainer Ben Cecil in California, was switched to Attfield this winter and comes into the Nassau off a second-place finish in the course-and-distance prep here May 16.

Palladio, who remains an enigma to his connections even at age 8, had an off day last time and trailed the field of five in the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse prep after being reluctant to load.

"He's fine," Attfield said. "If he loses it at the gate, it's the end of the show. He just gives you the finger."

Palladio can be very effective when on his game, however, as evidenced by his seven stakes wins, all at distances of 1 1/16 miles or 1 1/8 miles, and his bankroll of $1,140,152.

Sligovitz finished third in the Eclipse prep when making his first start in six months, but is winless in his last 10 outings.

Ave works toward New York Stakes

Ave, a turf star in the making for Attfield, breezed four furlongs in 48.20 seconds on the turf training track here Wednesday.

A 4-year-old filly, Ave won twice in England and was a Group 3 stakes winner in Ireland before being purchased privately and joining Attfield's barn. In her North American debut, at Pimlico on May 15, Ave finished a close third behind Rainbow View in the Grade 3 Gallorette over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

Attfield has identified Ave's next target as the Grade 2, $150,000 New York, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares at Belmont on June 19.