09/27/2005 11:00PM

Commingled pools for Keeneland meet


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Commingling, by which Canadian horseplayers bet directly into the pools at U.S. tracks, will take a major step forward beginning with the start of the Keeneland meeting on Oct. 7.

The first Thoroughbred track to offer commingled pools with Woodbine was Arlington, on Aug. 10, making the Canadian payoffs the same as those at the track.

Keeneland will be different, however. Win, exactor, and daily double payoffs will be identical on both sides of the border, but other exotics, such as pick threes, pick fours, pick sixes, triactors, and superfectas - as well as place and show payoffs - will differ.

The takeout on exotics other than exactors and daily doubles, will be a minimum 25 percent, according to Steve Mitchell, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Woodbine.

"We have high mandatory deductions for those exotic pools here," said Mitchell. "We can't match Keeneland's takeout, which is one of the lowest in North America."

The place and show takeout here will be 17 percent, a point above Keeneland's. Mitchell said the higher rate will offset the effect of breakage.

"Down there they break to the dime, here we break to the nickel," he said.

Meanwhile, the handle here for Arlington was up 22 percent over the corresponding period last year, but Mitchell believes the figure is misleading.

"It was the only track available on the Thoroughbred side," said Mitchell. "We wouldn't expect every track to be up that much."

Mitchell also noted that the Arlington figures, extended over the course of a year, would represent increased payouts of about $12 million to Canadian players when compared to the separate pools of the past.

Beware of Frivolette, trainer says

It is unlikely that Frivolette will get much respect here in Saturday's Grade 3, $281,500 Mazarine, the 1 1/16-mile feature for 2-year-old fillies.

But trainer Jim Smith believes Frivolette should be taken seriously, despite the fact that she'll be making only her second start after winning her maiden at six furlongs for a $50,000 claiming tag on Sept. 10.

"She came in here in late April," said Smith. "I pretty much just wanted to get some miles into her. I kind of expected her to buck shins, but she ran right through that."

When Frivolette made her debut, Smith was not concerned about running her for the claiming price.

"She'd never worked brilliant, even though she always finished up strong," said Smith. "Plus, she's not a very big filly."

Smith wasn't surprised when there were no takers, but he was shocked to see Frivolette rally from well off the pace for a two-length victory.

"I thought the race would be too short for her," he said. "She always gave the impression of being a two-turn horse. I wanted to give her a race so I could stretch her out to seven furlongs, or a mile and a sixteenth, for her second start.

"After she broke her maiden, I thought a mile and a sixteenth would hit her right between the eyes."

Smith nominated Frivolette to the Mazarine, and when he saw the list of 16 nominees he decided to take a shot.

"I think she'll run really well," said Smith. "If we can get some black type, that will be great."

David Clark, who rode Frivolette to her debut win, was committed to Arravale for the Mazarine. So Rui Pimentel takes over on Frivolette.

Casse sending two in Mazarine

Trainer Mark Casse, who won last year's Mazarine with Higher World, will have Tasha's Delight and Top Notch Lady in the field of 11 for this year's running.

Tasha's Delight and Top Notch Lady each won at first asking and have kept close company in the interim, both competing in the six-furlong Ontario Debutante and the Natalma over one mile of turf.

Tasha's Delight had the upper hand in the Ontario Debutante, finishing third, with Top Notch Lady a half-length back in fourth.

Top Notch Lady won their duel in the Natalma, running second, with Tasha's Delight three-quarters of a length back in third.

"I thought Tasha's Delight was going to win there for a minute; she made the lead," said Casse. "Top Notch Lady kind of dropped back, and then made a run. She came back on."

"We've been waiting for this race. I think both of them should have a decent chance."

Patrick Husbands, who has ridden Tasha's Delight in all of her starts and will ride her again, will be seeking his third straight Mazarine score; he rode Higher World to victory, and won aboard Dream About for trainer Josie Carroll in 2003.

Ray Sabourin, who rode Top Notch Lady for the first time in the Natalma, retains the mount.

Seaside Retreat something special?

Casse also is looking forward to the Grade 3, $250,000 Grey Stakes here Oct. 10, when Seaside Retreat will seek his third win in as many outings in that 1 1/16-mile race.

Seaside Delight, whose victories have come at six furlongs on dirt and seven furlongs on turf, worked a mile in 1:42.60 on a "good" track here last Friday.

With Husbands in the irons, Seaside Retreat outworked Can Ihavethisdance, a 4-year-old filly who was clocked in 1:43.

"He beat her pretty easy, but that wasn't what was amazing," said Casse. "It took Patrick up to the half-mile pole to pull him up. Patrick said he'd never seen anything like it.

"I might be wrong, and I don't want to get too far ahead of myself," Casse added. "But this horse could be a really special horse."