07/30/2008 11:00PM

East End Tap a complete stranger to turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Although East End Tap is coming off a solid second-place finish behind Harlem Rocker in Fort Erie's Prince of Wales, he will be a major question mark in the Breeders' Stakes here at Woodbine on Sunday.

The $500,000 Breeders', a 1 1/2-mile turf race that is the final leg in the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, attracted a field of 10.

The majority of the entrants have shown acceptable form on grass, but East End Tap has no green in either his race or workout history.

Reade Baker, who took over as East End Tap's trainer this spring, probably could have worked his horse on the turf prior to the Breeders' but was not interested.

"Typically, what happens here is that you go to the training turf course," said Baker. "It's completely different in shape, size, and everything else from the main course.

"Traditionally, when horses go out there to work on it, they all look good. Everybody gets their hopes up, and they soon get dashed."

So, while Baker really can cast no light on East End Tap with regards to the turf issue, he is confident on other counts.

East End Tap has been improving steadily, finishing fifth in the Plate Trial but a closer sixth in the Queens' Plate prior to his excellent Prince of Wales effort.

"He's in great health," said Baker, who sent out East End Tap to breeze five furlongs in 1:02.40 on the training track here last Sunday.

"He's more mature and better as we go along. I'm expecting big things from him."

Baker also believes the 1 1/2-mile distance will not be a barrier.

"He's bred to go as far as they have races," said Baker. "He might have looked like he was stopping in the Prince of Wales, but I think that Harlem Rocker is just a superior horse who found a second gear."

Slade Callaghan, who won the 2002 Breeders' with Portcullis, will ride East End Tap for the first time.

Turf may revitalize Deputiformer

Deputiformer, who finished fourth in the June 22 Queen's Plate and fifth in the July 13 Prince of Wales, will be the only other horse who will run in all three legs of Canada's Triple Crown series this year.

Trained by Mike DePaulo, Deputiformer also is one of just two stakes winners in the field, having captured the Cup and Saucer over 1o1/16 miles of turf here last fall.

"The Prince of Wales was a funny effort for him; I don't know what to make of it," said DePaulo, who had watched Deputiformer end nine lengths back at Fort Erie after being beaten just 4 3/4 lengths in the Queen's Plate.

"He may have bounced off the Plate - that was a big effort, and he was coming back in three weeks. He'd had five weeks off before the Plate.

"Or, maybe it was the dirt. He just seemed a little flat. Hopefully, he's going to get refreshed, back on the turf."

Deputiformer, who will be racing on the grass for the first time since winning his maiden in the Cup and Saucer, had finished second two weeks before that stakes in a one-mile maiden race on the turf.

"The turf, we know he can handle," said DePaulo. "The distance, I hope we can get. The mile and a half is a question for everyone; nobody's been close to going that far."

Longer distance may help Pronger

Pronger, who finished third in the Prince of Wales at 37-1, also will represent the DePaulo barn in the Breeders'.

Pronger came into the Prince of Wales off his maiden win over seven furlongs here June 20.

In two turf tries, one of which came in his debut last year and the other in his third start this season, Pronger showed little while finishing out of the money. Both those races were at six furlongs.

"He actually moves better on grass than he does anywhere else," said DePaulo, noting that Pronger has turned in several strong workouts over the training track turf course. "He's a galloper; I think he can get the distance."

Eurico Rosa da Silva will ride Pronger for the first time in the Breeders'.

Owens has trio of hot horses

The Steve Owens barn has been on a bit of a roll of late with Emma Ain't Bluffin, Head Chopper, and Joannie Not Jo all winning in the past week.

On Sunday, Owens will be looking to keep the ball rolling when he sends out Koonunga Hill for the $125,000 Nandi, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies.

Koonunga Hill was second to Cawaja Beach in her 4 1/2-furlong debut and then defeated Cataleenda winning her maiden over five furlongs.

Both Cawaja Beach and Cataleenda have come back to score impressively, with Cawaja Beach capturing the 5 1/2-furlong Shady Well and Cataleenda a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race, and both are in the Nandi lineup.

Koonunga Hill also ran in the Shady Well but finished fourth before being moved up to third via a disqualification following a troubled trip under regular rider Constant Montpellier.

"She was hampered by another horse, at the three-eighths pole," said Owens. "Otherwise, I think she would have probably given Cawaja Beach a little bit of a run down the lane."

Koonunga Hill will race on Lasix for the first time in the Nandi after breezing a solid six furlongs in 1:13 here last Saturday.

Emma Ain't Bluffin, a 4-year-old filly who began her campaign with a maiden win for $12,500, continued her remarkable ascent by recording her fourth straight victory under second-level allowance terms here Wednesday evening.

After failing to finish better than sixth in her first five starts, Emma Ain't Bluffin joined the Owens barn this spring.

"I assessed her, and thought she needed a myectomy," said Owens, whose opinion was seconded by Dr. Huw Llewellyn, a specialist in the throat operation. "Her form was so bad last year that I was able to start her at a reduced level and get her confidence back."

Emma Ain't Bluffin's next two wins came in a $20,000 claimer for nonwinners of two and a first-level allowance, and all of her successes have been come-from-behind efforts over 1 1/16 miles.

"I trained her mother, who liked to sit back and make one run," said Owens. "We taught this filly to do the same."

Emma Ain't Bluffin will be looking to continue her Cinderella story in the Algoma, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares that will be one of six $125,000 yearling sales stakes here Sept. 1.

Head Chopper won a second-level optional $62,500 claimer at 1 1/16 miles here last Sunday and is scheduled to compete in the Elgin, a 1 1/16-mile yearling sales stakes for colts and geldings.

A 5-year-old horse, Head Chopper finished third in last year's Elgin and second in the 2006 running.

Joannie Not Jo, a 3-year-old gelding who is also eligible for the Elgin, is riding a three-race win streak, having scored for $16,000, $20,000, and $32,000 at 1 1/16 miles.

"He always had the pedigree to go long, but he had soundness issues," said Owens.