11/26/2004 12:00AM

Colonial Surprise at full speed


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The meeting may be winding down, with just two weeks remaining after Sunday's card, but Nick DeToro certainly isn't about to call it a season.

"I still have eight or nine horses left to run," said DeToro, a 77-year-old owner and trainer. "Either the races haven't been filling, or they won't use them. Everybody's running on their last few ounces of gas."

That assessment, of course, does not include Colonial Surprise, who will represent DeToro in Sunday's $162,750 Bessarabian Handicap.

"This is a very important race for her," said DeToro. "It would increase her value, plus there's the purse."

Colonial Surprise, a 4-year-old, comes into the Bessarabian in prime form, having sandwiched two victories around a second-place finish in her last three outings.

"She's feeling good, training well," said DeToro. "She just wants to do it; she's very competitive. When she sees horses in front of her, she wants to run at them."

Colonial Surprise has run very well for DeToro, winning four races and $167,020 since he claimed her for $37,500 here on Aug. 24, 2003.

While planning to claim Pow Wow Louise out of a maiden $32,000 race here last Aug. 10, DeToro noticed Colonial Surprise coming into the paddock for the same event.

"I thought, 'What a good-looking filly,'" said DeToro.

DeToro did claim Pow Wow Louise, who won that day, with Colonial Surprise finishing second.

"I looked her up and liked her pedigree," said DeToro. "I thought they'd raise her to $40,000, but they did me a favor - they raised her to $37,500 and I claimed her."

Colonial Surprise finished second again in that Sept. 6 race and then recorded back-to-back wins, at the $50,000 maiden claiming level and the first-level allowance condition.

In her last start of 2003, Colonial Surprise was beaten just a head as the runner-up when racing at the third-level allowance condition. And, after getting off to a slow start this year, Colonial Affair has been making up for lost time.

"I tried her on grass, and she just didn't like it," said DeToro. "I wasted a couple of months with that."

A sports bar for every fan

WEGZ Stadium Bar, an impressive new facility owned by the Woodbine Entertainment Group, is officially off and running after a ribbon cutting-ceremony Thursday afternoon.

WEGZ, which is located about 13 miles northeast of Woodbine in the city of Vaughan, is the company's suburban answer to Turf Lounge, which opened in downtown Toronto's financial district in June 2003.

Both WEGZ and the Turf Lounge offer wagering on Woodbine's live and simulcast products but also can stand on their own merits. Turf Lounge has been successful in its role as an upscale restaurant, but WEGZ was foreseen as a sports bar on a grand scale and seems to have the tools to be a major success.

WEGZ is a 23,000-square-foot facility that will accommodate 800 customers and has parking for 300 vehicles. It also features not only a teletheatre section but numerous other sports-related areas.

"We want to expose people to horse racing, without horse racing imposing itself," said David Willmot, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Woodbine Entertainment Group. He expects the operation to recoup its $5 million price tag in just three years.

The teletheatre occupies a relatively small but visible corner of WEGZ, just inside the main entrance, and is serviced by three mutuel windows and several automated wagering machines. Several other automated units are scattered throughout the other bar and dining areas, many of which can be isolated for group bookings.

More than 80 screens, including nine measuring 6 feet by 9 feet and one at 16 feet by 22 feet, are available to showcase a variety of sports.

The range of sports-related activities on offer include simulated and virtual golf, virtual auto racing, X-Box gaming, pool tables, foosball tables, and scaled-down bowling lanes.

Jim Ormiston, executive vice-president and chief operating officer for Woodbine Entertainment, said the early notices have been uniformly encouraging since the facility was opened to the public just over two weeks ago.

"Business has been very, very good," said Ormiston. "We hadn't really done any marketing, it's just been word of month."

New structure gives better access

Construction is under way on a new elevator and stair tower here at the northwest rear of the grandstand, across from the walking ring.

The spacious, curving ramp that formerly provided access from the walking ring area to the second floor has been torn down to accommodate the new structure.

Gerri Kretschmer, vice president of properties for Woodbine Entertainment, said the $5 million project should be completed early next summer.

"This has been part of our overall game plan since we first started redeveloping the facility in 1996," said Kretschmer. "Our objective always has been to finish the grandstand. This is the final phase."

Kretschmer said the new structure would provide "improved vertical access" to the grandstand, with two elevators that will stop at the second through fifth floors of the six-story structure and stairwells on each side.

There also will be a new staircase providing direct access from the second floor to the walking ring area, and a new second-floor deck designed to provide additional viewing of the horses in the paddock and the walking ring.

Roche drops suspension appeal

Apprentice jockey Jennie Roche will serve a three-day suspension, Wednesday through Friday, after withdrawing her appeal of an earlier ruling.

Roche was the top apprentice rider at Fort Erie and ranked fifth in the overall standings there with 53 wins. She has also ridden 10 winners at Woodbine, and her mounts have earned almost $1 million this season.

I'm the Tiger works for Kennedy Road

I'm the Tiger worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 here Friday in preparation for the $125,000 Kennedy Road on Dec. 11. Exercise rider Mickey Walls was aboard for the drill, which was the best of eight at the distance over the fast main track.

A Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Danny Vella, I'm the Tiger has finished first or second in each of his five main-track outings this season, including the 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture Handicap here July 11.

Although he is a contender for the Sovereign Award sprint title, I'm the Tiger and others bound for the Kennedy Road, a six-furlong race, will not be able to add to their credentials there since the votes are due Dec. 6.