10/21/2007 11:00PM

Cloudy's Knight lands on right track

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Frank Kirby certainly latched onto a good thing when he discovered Woodbine's turf stakes program this summer.

On Sunday, Cloudy's Knight rewarded Kirby's acumen by scoring the biggest win of his career in the Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International.

Kirby, 70, believed Woodbine's long stretch and final turn would suit Cloudy's Knight, a massive individual who measures some 17-3 hands and weighs about 1,260 pounds.

Cloudy's Knight finished second in his first start at Woodbine in the Grade 2 Nijinsky on Aug. 26. He since shipped in from his home base in Illinois and won the Grade 2 Sky Classic and, on Sunday, the International.

Cloudy's Knight, a gelding who races for the S J Stable of Jerry Schwartz and his wife, Shirley, has been with Kirby since he was a yearling. He did not race as a 2-year-old.

"I told the owners after he'd started six or eight times that he'd be a really good graded horse going a mile and a quarter and longer," Kirby said.

Cloudy's Knight, 7, has raced 32 times. His only major problem has been an ankle injury that forced him out of the races for nearly a year.

"He's been really sound," said Kirby, who has watched Cloudy's Knight win 10 races. The $1.2 million check he earned from the Canadian International boosted his career bankroll to more than $2 million.

Cloudy's Knight, who has made nine starts in 2007, will not race again this season.

"We'll take him home now, to the training center in St. Charles, Illinois, where he spends most of his time between races," said Kirby. "We'll just lay him up, graze him, and let him be a horse."

Although Cloudy's Knight spent last winter at the Fair Grounds, Kirby is planning a different agenda for next season.

"There's only a couple of races for him there," said Kirby. "We're thinking of bigger purses now."

Cloudy's Knight's success also marked a career highlight for jockey Ramsey Zimmerman, who had never ridden at Woodbine prior to Cloudy's Knight's first race here.

Zimmerman, 25, has won 31 stakes races in a career that began in 1998. Three of his four graded stakes scores have come aboard Cloudy's Knight.

What's next

Ask and Quijano, who both rallied from off the slow pace to finish second and third in the Canadian International, are heading back to their home bases.

"I thought the ground was just a bit too lively for him," said Stuart Messenger, an assistant to Ask's trainer, Michael Stoute. "He ended up hanging just that little bit at the end. You can't knock him; he was beaten a nose."

Ask, a lightly-raced 4-year-old who is based in England, likely will not race again this year, but he is scheduled to return to the track next year.

Quijano, a 5-year-old gelding based in Germany, will be considered for the Nov. 25 Japan Cup and the Dec. 9 Hong Kong Vase.

Oracle West, who finished a close fifth, will be returning to England while Honolulu, who ran eighth, is going back to Ireland.

Scott McConnell, assistant to Oracle West's trainer Michael de Kock, said the 6-year-old gelding will spend the next month or so in England before heading back to Dubai, where he will begin his next campaign.

Irish Wells, a 4-year-old based in France, finished 10th in the Canadian International over firm going, which he undoubtedly did not relish He is being retired to stud.

Locals hurt by dawdling pace

The connections of Sky Conqueror and Windward Islands, the only locally based Canadian International runners, both felt the slow pace compromised their chances.

Sky Conqueror, a 5-year-old horse trained by Darwin Banach, finished seventh and is nominated to both the Japan Cup and the Hong Kong Vase.

Windward Islands, a 3-year-old gelding, ran ninth and will not start again this season.

"He'll go to Florida and get a little break," trainer Mark Frostad said. "I think he'll be a nice 4-year-old."

Heros Reward tops Capuano's wins

Heros Reward's victory in Sunday's Grade 2, $501,200 Nearctic was gave his trainer, Dale Capuano, his biggest career win.

Heros Reward, a 5-year-old gelding, was making his second start at Woodbine this year, having finishedsecond in the six-furlong Highlander on June 24.

"We had this race in mind when we brought him up for the Highlander," said Capuano.

Heros Reward, who was making his 10th start of the year in the Nearctic, now will be getting a break.

"He deserves one," said Capuano. "There's not much for him over the winter. We plan to run him in races like this again next year."

Handle drops

Sunday's 11-race program was a big hit in an aesthetic sense, with good racing and perfect weather, but a disappointment in a business sense.

All-sources handle on the card was $4,605,531, down from $5,247,224 on the corresponding 11-race program last year.

Handle on the Canadian International itself, with a 12-race field, was $1,048,861. The handle on last year's Canadian International, with 10 starters, was $1,179,554.

"California was down quite a bit; we're not sure why," said Sean Pinsonneault, Woodbine's vice president, wagering services.

"And, the exchange rate was off about 15 percent [compared to 2006]. That affects the handle a little bit."

Pinsonneault estimated Sunday's attendance at 12,000.