08/16/2006 12:00AM

Fresh horses are dangerous right now


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The lengthy Woodbine meeting, which is scheduled to end Dec. 10, is in a state of change. Polytrack, a synthetic surface that most believe to be kinder to horses than conventional dirt tracks, will obviously be a major alteration when it is introduced later this summer. At that point, racing over the tight-turned inner track, which is normally used for harness racing, will conclude.

Many horses who began their campaign early in the spring are now at the point in the season when they are past their peak, and fresh horses have recently begun to make some noise. Last Saturday, two horses who were both returning from a two-month layoff swept the early double.

Golden Sunset, a 2-year-old filly trained by Ross Armata, won the opener in a romp, winning her maiden in special weight company. She made three starts in the spring, the best of which was runner-up placing against $50,000 maidens.

Runaway Sunshine won the second race easily, defeating $62,500 optional claiming opposition as the favorite, earning a career high 90 Beyer Speed Figure. She had been off since June 7, when she finished a close third in the restricted Ballade Stakes with the aid of an inside-speed bias.

Trainer Frank Passero Jr. worked Runaway Sunshine four times during her time off, including a bullet half-mile drill in 48.40 seconds July 27. Golden Sunset had just two recorded works during her hiatus, but both of those moves were much quicker than average, a positive sign for Armata, who doesn't usually lean on his horses in the mornings.

Rosa Rose ($17.20) won Saturday's eighth race, a two-turn allowance, following a vacation. She hadn't started since her victory in a May 27 maiden special, and trainer Brian Lynch has grown accustomed to spacing her races at least six weeks apart.

Lynch sent out another Stronach Stable-owned winner on Sunday, Feisty Woman, who was returning from a two-month break. With blinkers on, Feisty Woman, led throughout the 1 1/8-mile maiden special on the grass, returning $13.60.

Some trainers decided to forgo running their better horses on the inner track, because of a perceived risk factor. Horses going directly from a main track race to the Polytrack could become a common occurrence, and many of those runners could be live.

Many horses who missed some training during the spring due to sickness only recently have begun to find their best form.

After contracting a virus, Like a Gem and Strike Softy both came up empty in the June 11 Woodbine Oaks, but after getting back on track, they each won a stakes in July.

Friday's fourth race, a six-furlong turf sprint for $40,000 claimers, includes several fillies and mares who are coming off the bench.

Feistee Deer hasn't run since ending up seventh in a tough June 24 allowance won by See the Wind. She is proven when fresh, though, having won her maiden first time out at 2, and a $40,000 conditioned claimer following a two-month absence June 10.

Feistee Deer has worked four times in the past five weeks for trainer Reade Baker, who has been winning at an 18 percent clip with 31-60 day comebackers.

Rainbow Woman was flat in her only two starts this year, both early in the spring on the main track. She has a solid grass record, however, and the time off coupled with a surface switch might get her out of her slump.

Dirt specialist Great Auntee had a productive spring campaign before going to the sidelines. Trainer Earl Barnett gave her a similar vacation last summer, and she scored off a two-month break last Aug. 25. She would look appealing if the proceedings are moved to the inner dirt track.