09/27/2009 11:00PM

Crown Isle, Aurora Lights surprise in stakes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Last weekend's stakes for 3-year-olds both figured to play a major role in the Sovereign Award picture.

The field of eight colts and geldings for Sunday's $151,200 Ontario Derby included Eye of the Leopard, winner of the Queen's Plate and Plate Trial, and Awesome Rhythm, who had been successful in three open stakes at this meeting.

Saturday's $263,000 Selene attracted a field of just five fillies but included Milwaukee Appeal, winner of the Woodbine Oaks and second in Saratoga's Grade 1 Alabama, and Hooh Why, who had captured the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland and the Grade 3 La Lorgnette here.

But when lights went down, it was Crown Isle, at 13-1, who prevailed in the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby and Aurora Lights, at 9-1, who won the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Selene.

Crown Isle, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old who races for the Up Hill Stable and is trained by John Charalambous, was recording his second stakes win in the Ontario Derby after taking the Toronto Cup over 1 1/8 miles on turf here July 11.

The Toronto Cup is the only start Crown Isle has made on turf. His two races prior to the Toronto Cup were rained off the grass, as was his race following the Toronto Cup.

"The day he won the Toronto Cup was supposed to be his third start on turf," said Charalambous. "I always thought he was better on the turf."

Crown Isle now has made a compelling case for himself on Polytrack after finishing third in the 1 1/16-mile allowance prep and then capturing the Ontario Derby itself by a length under new rider Emile Ramsammy.

"I thought he'd be a little closer to the pace," said Charalambous, who watched Crown Isle slip back to sixth midway through the Ontario Derby. "But I'd told Emile, 'You're in charge. Let him run his race.' "

Charalambous, who had spent the previous six days at the Keeneland sales with Up Hill Stable principal Leonard Zenith, purchased five horses for that outfit and one for another client.

"This will certainly help pay for them," Charalambous said after Crown Isle collected $90,000 to bring his career earnings to $277,074 from six starts.

With no more open stakes for 3-year-olds on the Woodbine calendar, Charalambous is uncertain of where he might head with Crown Isle.

Meanwhile, Awesome Rhythm finished fourth and Eye of the Leopard sixth in the Ontario Derby's field of eight. The two-three finishers, Eagle Poise and Tutti Buona Gente, were first and second in the allowance prep.

Aurora Lights, who had checked in from her home at nearby Chiefswood Farm at 8 a.m Saturday, was back in her stall there by 9 p.m. with a graded stakes win and its first prize of $150,000 on her papers.

An $800,000 yearling purchase by Chiefswood principals Robert and Mark Krembil, Aurora Lights had come into the Selene as a winner of one race and had missed by a head in the 1 1/16-mile allowance prep.

"The trip she had in the prep wasn't ideal," said trainer Eric Coatrieux, who was sending out his first stakes winner of the season. "She was stuck a little bit on the inside and didn't have anywhere to go.

"This race was a little tougher, no doubt about it, but she ran so well she deserved a shot."

Aurora Lights took full advantage of the opportunity, rallying strong up the inside under a heads-up ride by Jim McAleney to leave Milwaukee Appeal 1 3/4 lengths back in second place and Hooh Why another length back in third.

The Chiefswood horses do the majority of their training at home, usually shipping to Woodbine only when more than a month has passed since their last starts and a qualifying workout is needed.

Aurora Lights was making her first start in 28 days and had her final major move on her home grounds.

"She worked extremely well," Coatrieux said. "She worked in 59 and change; that's excellent up here."

Coatrieux has no immediate plan for Aurora Lights but mentioned the $175,000 Maple Leaf, a 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares here Nov. 7, and the Oct. 23 Valley View, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland, as possibilities.

Aurora Lights has tried turf once, finishing a distant 12th in a mile maiden race here June 28.

"She had a horrible trip in there," Coatrieux said. "She had to check, hard. I think she'll run all right on grass."

Attfield gets another turf stakes win

Trainer Roger Attfield has another turf stakes winner in his barn after Mekong Melody, ridden by Chantal Sutherland, scored by three-quarters of a length in Sunday's $101,600 Flaming Page for fillies and mares at 1 1/2 miles.

Attfield has won eight stakes at the meeting, six of them coming on the turf with as many different horses: Musketier, Lady Shakespeare, Perfect Shower, Society's Chairman, Hello Maggie May, and now Mekong Melody. The trainer also won a turf stakes at Keeneland this spring with Spice Route.

Mekong Melody, bred in Ireland by her owner, David Egan, recorded her third win in four starts at Woodbine. Her longest previous race was over 1 5/16 miles in England.

"This was unknown territory," Attfield said of the Flaming Page trip. "But her pedigree indicated she'd be able to do it and, with the way she trained, I thought it would be okay."

Careless Jewel works for Cotillion

Careless Jewel, coming off a romping win in the Alabama, breezed four furlongs in 47.80 seconds here Sunday under regular rider Robert Landry.

"She really relaxed and finished well," trainer Josie Carroll said. "That's the kind of work we've been waiting to see."

Careless Jewel is slated to leave Thursday for Saturday's Grade 2, $750,000 Cotillion, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies at Philadelphia Park.