05/23/2004 11:00PM

Eye of the Sphynx expands repertoire


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Eye of the Sphynx has come a long way in just two short months.

Now, after recording her third consecutive win here in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Selene Stakes, Eye of the Sphynx will get a brief respite before she goes to the post for the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks on June 13.

"She's been under a lot of pressure; we've done a lot with her in a short time," said Mark Frostad, who trains Eye of the Sphynx for Sam-Son Farm.

Eye of the Sphynx scored over seven furlongs of slop at Keeneland on April 22, then captured the Fury over the same distance of muddy going here May 9.

The Selene, over another sloppy track, was an important test, being her first race around two turns, and Eye of the Sphynx showed two encouraging new dimensions.

First, Eye of the Sphynx relaxed just off the pace of front-running Ontheqt, laying second before being urged by jockey Todd Kabel.

Then, as Silver Bird moved up to engage her at the top of the stretch, Eye of the Sphynx became embroiled in her first full-fledged stretch battle, and actually lost the lead before coming on again to win by a neck.

"At the sixteenth pole, when that other filly got by us, I thought it was probably over," Frostad said. "For a young horse, to battle back - I thought it was extraordinary."

Eye of the Sphynx was supplemented to the Queen's Plate last week, at a cost of $15,000, but Frostad will wait until the 1 1/8-mile Oaks is in the books before beginning to entertain any Plate speculation.

Silver Bird still in line for Oaks

Silver Bird, owned by Jim McAlpine and trained by Reade Baker, boosted her stock with her second-place finish in just her second start of the season.

"I thought she ran super," Baker said. "Again, she's still playing catch-up, not having raced this winter. I think she'll be a better filly Oaks Day."

Silver Bird had finished second, beaten 3 1/4 lengths by Eye of the Sphynx, when she made her seasonal debut in the Fury.

Hong Kong Dancer also on trail

Baker has a second Oaks candidate in Hong Kong Dancer, who was a 6 1/2-length winner of a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles here on Saturday.

Owned by Peter Ho, Hong Kong Dancer had debuted just three weeks earlier with an 8 1/4-length score in an optional claiming/maiden allowance race at six furlongs.

"I don't know how good she is; I'm just like everybody else," said Baker. "She's untested. She couldn't do it much easier."

Baker also was pleased that Hong Kong Dancer rated nicely off the front-runner in her first try around two turns.

"She was perfect," he said. "I was kind of surprised. I thought she'd be a little bit of a bull."

Hong Kong Dancer earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 86 for her performance, while Eye of the Sphynx and Silver Bird both were assigned an 80.

Successful homecoming for 'Judiths'

Judiths Wild Rush was a bust on the road, finishing well back in the Delta Jackpot in Louisiana on Dec. 5 and in the Bay Shore at Aqueduct on April 10.

But Judiths Wild Rush, who was Canada's champion 2-year-old male of 2003, had his share of misfortune in those races, and he was a certified hit when he returned on his home track for Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Marine.

Trainer Scott Fairlie did allow that Judiths Wild Rush had a license to take a big step forward off the seven-furlong Bay Shore, which was his first start in more than four months.

"But I wasn't overconfident, because I know the horse wasn't as good as he could be, or should be," said Fairlie, who trains Judiths Wild Rush for Tenenbaum Racing Stable. "He's been going since January last year. The only break he got was when he was walking in the barn, at the farm, when he was foot-sore when he came back from Delta.

"But he got the job done. He ran impressive against those kind of horses."

The next logical target for Judiths Wild Rush, a Kentucky-bred, is the $125,000 Victoria Park, an open 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds here June 13.

Burst of Fire continues toward Plate

The Marine is billed as a prep for the June 27 Queen's Plate, but Burst of Fire and Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk were the only Canadian-breds in the field of six.

Burst of Fire, a Sam-Son Farm colt, finished fourth, beaten 12 3/4 lengths, but Frostad is not about to rule him out of the Plate picture.

"The horses who beat him are American-bred," said Frostad. "He's a bit one-paced, but he'll plod along."

Burst of Fire is nominated to the Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race here June 6, but has had four two-turn races since beginning his career March 13. If his connections elect to run him in the Plate, then the $1 million, 1 1/4-mile showpiece would be his next start.

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk was eased in the stretch by jockey David Clark.

"He's off the Plate trail," said Bob Tiller, who trains Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk for owner Frank DiGiulio. "He won't run again until he's right."

While Tiller said Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk was "not seriously injured," he declined to offer specifics.

"All I'll say is he has a middle-body injury," said Tiller, in an accurate parody of the National Hockey League's vague injury reports.