09/13/2007 11:00PM

Dead Red has traveled far

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - Dead Red may not be the most accomplished horse in Sunday's Woodbine Mile, but he certainly ranks as one of the most interesting.

Dead Red, a 4-year-old gelding trained and partly owned by George Mikhalides, arrived at Woodbine with assistant trainer Hector Cane in the wee hours of Thursday morning following a 28-hour van ride from Florida.

But Dead Red's trip to the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile has been much stranger in a figurative sense, as he was racing in a $16,000 conditioned claimer when he was claimed at Calder on May 8, 2006.

The claim slip actually was dropped by a friend, Christos Gatos, as Mikhalides himself had no horses and was ineligible to claim at the time.

"He had the pedigree of a turf horse," said the 46-year-old Mikhalides. "I hoped, eventually, that's what he would become."

Dead Red was entered on the turf for his next two starts, but both were switched to the main track and the gelding was well-beaten.

Throughout the summer, Dead Red raced in the lower conditioned-claiming ranks, where no turf races are offered, before taking several months off with a foot problem before resurfacing at the 2007 Gulfstream meeting.

Dead Red performed creditably enough racing in first-level allowance company at Gulfstream, with his four starts all coming at five furlongs on turf.

"I always thought highly of him as a turf horse, and he progressed little by little," said Mikhalides.

Back at Calder and sticking to the turf, Dead Red ended on the fringes in a couple of minor stakes before recording his first win for Mikhalides under first-level allowance terms at 7 1/2 furlongs.

Then, in his last start at Calder on Aug. 11, Dead Red exploded with a three-quarter-length win at 70-1 in the $250,000 Turf Sprint at five furlongs, where he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105, 14 points higher than his previous best.

Mikhalides, who had trained for Buckram Oak Farm in France during the 1980s, had been to Woodbine many years ago, sending out Something True to finish a close fifth in the 1987 Canadian International and eighth in the transplanted 1988 Arlington Million.

So after the Turf Sprint, when Mikhalides started searching for a turf stakes for Dead Red, he hit upon the Woodbine Mile.

"I think the mile will be okay," said Mikhalides. "He's bred to go a mile, and in his sprint races, he's finishing all the time.

"If it works, it will be nice for us."

The Woodbine Mile experiment could have another benefit, as it will determine how Dead Red handles the experience with a view toward the Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic at six furlongs here Oct. 21.

Emma-Jayne Wilson, who has picked up the mount on Dead Red, took the gelding for a gallop around the course here Friday morning.

Like a Gem has upset history

Like a Gem certainly won't be among the chosen ones in the Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian, the 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares that serves as the main supporting feature on Sunday's program.

But Like a Gem has defied the odds in major fashion on one previous occasion, defeating fellow Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies in last year's Wonder Where at 48-1.

"She's doing great," said trainer Danny Vella, who trains Like a Gem for owner-breeder Garland Williamson. "This is one of the races we were hoping to make. We'd like to get a graded win into her."

Vella had planned to start Like a Gem in an earlier Grade 2 turf stakes, the 1 1/8-mile Dance Smartly here July 22.

But, after Like Gem finished a distant second behind the very talented 3-year-old filly Bear Now in her seasonal debut at 1 1/16 miles on June 16, the filly became muscle-sore and did not return to action until Aug. 19.

Like a Gem finished fourth that day in the Belle Mahone, also at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

"Now that she's got that race into her, she's as good as she can be," said Vella. "She'll handle the Polytrack, but she much prefers turf."

Cryptonite Kid a promising performer

Vella also is looking for a strong effort from the 2-year-old Cryptonite Kid in the afternoon's other supporting feature, the Grade 3, $250,000 Summer at one mile on turf.

"He's a very professional young horse," said Vella. "He does everything right.

"They'll have to beat him. They'll know he's there - that's for sure."

An Alberta-bred owned by Class Action Stable, a syndicate in which Vella is a partner, Cryptonite Kid was purchased privately after fetching $32,000 at the local yearling sale.

Vella had reason to believe Cryptonite Kid would take to turf, as he trained the sire, Explosive Red, whose successes included the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at 1 1/8 miles on grass.

Cryptonite Kid gave Vella further evidence for that belief when he worked five furlongs in 58.80 seconds in his first spin over the turf training course, and the colt has done little to undermine the notion in two starts to date.

In his first outing, at six furlongs on turf here July 21, Cryptonite Kid finished second to Briarwood Circle, who doubled up in the off-the-turf prep for the Summer at seven furlongs and is back for the Summer.

Three weeks later, Cryptonite Kid stalked the pace and rallied for a 2 3/4-length victory over the same distance and surface. Brickyard Crossing, the runner-up there and a stablemate of Briarwood Circle, also is in the Summer lineup.

"The first time he was a little racy, and Briarwood Circle caught him at the end," said Vella. "The second time he rated very well, and circled horses."

* Kip Deville tuned up for the Woodbine Mile here Friday morning with a three-furlong breeze in 37.40 seconds over the turf course under exercise rider Rudy Rodriguez.