08/30/2013 11:42AM

Fort Erie: Connections hope to take the plunge in Puss n Boots


FORT ERIE, Ontario – One of the most memorable events at this 115-year-old racetrack came in 1961 when a gelding named Puss n Boots decided to go for a swim, veered off the turf course in a 1 1/16-mile race, and ended up in the infield lake.

A race named after Puss n Boots was subsequently started, and tradition calls for the winning connections to take a plunge in the infield lake to mark the event.

On Sunday, the Puss n Boots will go as the ninth of 12 races with a purse of $30,000, with 12 entrants. To be eligible to run, a horse must have started at least twice at Fort Erie this season.

Heading the field is Catch the Luck, an 8-year-old gelding who was brought to Fort Erie for a 1 1/16-mile race on dirt after being claimed for $8,000 at Woodbine on July 10.

Having failed to win in 2012 and having shown little in his previous three starts in 2013, Catch the Luck took on seven rivals in a $10,000 starter allowance at Fort Erie on July 30, and sent off at odds of 19-1, Catch the Luck stayed in touch for six furlongs and then swept to the lead, winning by 5 3/4 lengths.

Twelve days later, the gelding tried a $16,000 optional claimer and just missed as the 3-5 favorite. Catch the Luck was beaten a neck by Alphanumeric in that 1 1/16-mile turf race and will be looking to avenge that defeat in the Puss n Boots.

Bradley Wilson retains the mount on Catch the Luck for trainer Kevin Buttigieg, who also owns the horse in partnership with Doug Snowden.

Alphanumeric was sent off at 26-1 in that Aug. 11 race. The 5-year-old was trying the Fort Erie turf for the first time that day and had failed to score in nine previous starts on the grass.

Kirk Johnson again takes the call for trainer Carlton Johnson.

Village Drive has only had two starts on turf – and neither came at Fort Erie – but he has turf in his pedigree, with his sire hitting at 12 percent and his dam having made $75,000 on the grass.

Village Drive is trained by Tom Patton and will be ridden by Matt Moore.

Rounding out the top four is the speedster Big Brook, who is part of an entry with Shanghai Knight.

Melanie Pinto has been aboard Big Brook, a 4-year-old gelding, as he has matured throughout 2013. Big Brook won his maiden in early June and later won at seven furlongs on the turf going gate to wire.

Last time out, in the race won by Alphanumeric, Big Brook led into the final furlong before giving way. He is a candidate to steal the Puss n Boots for trainer Michael Blake.