10/05/2005 11:00PM

Cotey sets modest goal for 'Moonshine'

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Moonshine Justice, winner of three stakes and runner-up in the Sovereign Award voting for his division last year, came into his current campaign with serious designs on the Queen's Plate.

But, after suffering a hairline fracture of a right hind tibia in his first start of the season in the Queenston at Woodbine on May 7, all Plate bets were off and Moonshine Justice went to the sidelines for about three months.

Saturday, Moonshine Justice will be making just his second start of the season in the $81,000 Mt. Sassafras, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward.

"He has been working well," said Dave Cotey, who trains Moonshine Justice and is a part-owner along with Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith.

"We had a little bit of a setback with him last week: He came back with a high white count. He feels good now, but he has to go out and do it against some nice horses.

"I have to hope he improves off this race, gets a little bit out of it. If we can get third, I think that's a good effort."

Moonshine Justice will begin from the outside in the field of six under regular rider Constant Montpellier and high weight of 121 pounds.

Meanwhile, the horse to beat in the Mt. Sassafras is Mister Coop, who will be looking for his third stakes win of the season.

Mister Coop, a 6-year-old gelding, earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 101 winning the seven-furlong Overskate for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward here in his last start Sept. 21.

"He seems to be improving all year long," said Danny Vella, who trains Mister Coop for Syd Cooper. "He's happy, full of himself. He's such a big, strong horse."

Emile Ramsammy, who rode Mister Coop for the first time in the Overskate, retains the mount on Mister Coop, the probable favorite.

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Tucci Stable and trained by Sid Attard, is coming off a second-place finish in the Kenora, a six-furlong yearling sales stakes here Sept. 4.

Beaten a head there by Dave the Knave, Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk finished three-quarters of a length before third-place Mister Coop and is a serious threat in the Mt. Sassafras.

An upset possibility is Awesome Action, a 5-year-old gelding who won the seven-furlong Ontario Jockey Club on turf here in July and returns to the main track following a sixth-place finish in the Atto Mile.

Rounding out the field are Quick in Deed, the likely pacesetter, and Millfleet.

Dave the Knave earns vacation

Like Moonshine Justice, Dave the Knave was a horse whose Queen's Plate dreams failed to materialize.

But Dave the Knave did manage to win the Kenora and place in two other sprint stakes this year, and now has gone to the farm with earnings of $175,940 from six starts, with his latest a fifth-place finish in the Overskate.

"He just needs a couple of months off," said Bob Tiller, who trains Dave the Knave and is a co-owner along with Frank DiGiulio. "He was looking for two months off all year; he's finally going to get four. If he ever gets right, he's going to be a nice horse."

Can 'Top Ten' last nine furlongs?

Top Ten List, who has been the architect of Tiller's three other stakes scores this season, will attempt to add to that total in Saturday's $163,200 Carotene.

The Carotene is a 1 1/8-mile turf race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies. Top Ten List's stakes successes all have come on the turf in front-running fashion, with the longest at one mile.

"This is a big challenge," acknowledged Tiller. "She's starting to stretch it. It looks like there's other speed in there, but she could relax and lay second or third. We will see what develops."

Perigee Girl stalks and pounces

Perigee Girl ($2.70) took control from stablemate U R Flashy at the head of the stretch and went on to a one-length victory in the $125,400 Victorian Queen Stakes here Wednesday night.

Perigee Girl won her maiden convincingly on the lead in her last start, but she rated kindly in a stalking position in the Victorian Queen, a six-furlong sprint for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies.

U R Flashy set fractions of 22.43 and 45.54 seconds, while being pressed by Archeress. Perigee Girl ran three wide on the turn and joined the leaders inside the quarter pole before edging away from runner-up La Gran Marylin. U R Flash finished another 1 1/2 lengths back in third in the six-horse field.

"She settled even better than I thought she would," said jockey Jim McAleney, who had his pick of the two Reade Baker-trained fillies in the field, and went with Perigee Girl over U R Flashy. "She ran hard and was getting a little tired in the lane."

Perigee Girl covered the distance in 1:11.83, and earned $75,000 in her stakes debut. She is owned by the partnership of Park Stud, Harlequin Ranches, and D. Morgan Firestone.

The stakes win was the 11th of the meeting for McAleney, with that number including eight of Baker's 10 stakes scores.

Emma Wilson, Woodbine's leading jockey, said her mount, runner-up La Gran Marylin, has progressed nicely this year under the guidance of trainer Jake Nemett.

"She has always been a little skittish, but she has come a long, long way," Wilson said.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink