06/22/2009 11:00PM

Frostad sees Eye of the Leopard improving


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mark Frostad was the veteran and jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva the rookie when they teamed up with Eye of the Leopard for Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate.

The combination worked wonderfully as Frostad, represented by his 15th entrant in his 10th Queen's Plate appearance, and Da Silva, making his debut in Canada's $1 million showpiece, met in the winner's circle following a stirring renewal of the 1 1/4-mile race.

Frostad said Eye of the Leopard can still improve.

"He ran pretty greenly down the stretch," said Frostad the morning after saddling his fourth Queen's Plate winner. "But he's starting to figure it all out."

Eye of the Leopard, a homebred owned by Sam-Son Farm, was racing for just the fourth time in the Queen's Plate after beginning his career at Keeneland on April 15.

"We were on such a tight schedule," said Frostad. "His one start at Keeneland he didn't get of whole lot out of - he didn't know what he was doing. Then he won his maiden, won the Plate Trial, and went on to the Queen's Plate, all three weeks apart."

Frostad said his confidence was boosted last week when Eye of the Leopard worked with 4-year-old stablemate Catch the Luck, starting off several lengths behind that rival and finishing a couple of lengths in front. Catch the Luck set a 1 1/8-mile track record of 1:49.19 in winning a second-level optional $62,500 claimer here last Saturday.

Eye of the Leopard now will look to the $500,000 Prince of Wales, the 1 3/16-mile race that is the second leg of Canada's Triple Crown, over Fort Erie's main track on July 12.

"I think he'll be even better on dirt," said Frostad. "He handled it very well, training at Fair Grounds."

Eye of the Leopard will follow Frostad's usual program and not ship to Fort Erie until the day of the Prince of Wales.

Another sibling act may loom

Hotep, a 2-year-old full brother to Eye of the Leopard, had his second breeze last Saturday, going three furlongs in 37.20.

"He just got in recently," said Frostad. "He was training on the farm in Florida. He's a big, strong boy, but a different type altogether from Eye of the Leopard. He's not as long, and he's wider."

Frostad already sent out full siblings to win back-to-back runnings of the Queen's Plate, with Scatter the Gold prevailing in 2000 and the filly Dancethruthedawn in 2001.

Da Silva a rookie winner

Da Silva, 33, is in his sixth season here after riding in his native Brazil and then in Macau.

"I've never really been close to riding a Queen's Plate horse before," said Da Silva, who is represented by agent Don Parente. "I was very happy to have a horse with a good chance. I have a lot of faith in him. He's a young horse, and he only keeps getting better."

Eye of the Leopard was the 27th stakes winner here for Da Silva and by far the most lucrative. His earlier major successes last year came aboard Callwood Dancer in the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau for trainer Roger Attfield and with Grand Adventure in the Grade 3, $303,900 Summer for Frostad.

Da Silva also was the regular rider of Fatal Bullet, Canada's Horse of the Year and champion sprinter after finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year.

Filly breaks down in morning

Da Silva's Queen's Plate euphoria was somewhat muted on Monday after Preciselyperfect, a 3-year-old filly he was riding for trainer Mike DePaulo, broke down at the conclusion of a five-furlong workout.

"She broke her tibia, and we had to euthanize her," said DePaulo, who had been pointing Preciselyperfect for Saturday's $250,000 Bison City.

Smart Enough does it again

Smart Enough confirmed his fondness for Woodbine in Sunday's $209,800 Highlander, leading throughout the six-furlong turf race to score by two lengths under Jeremy Rose.

A 6-year-old gelding trained by John Fisher, Smart Enough won the Highlander in 2007 and finished third here in that fall's Nearctic over six furlongs of grass.

"He hurt himself in the Shakertown last spring at Keeneland," said Fisher. "We ran him back a couple of times in the fall but he wasn't right. His back hurt him, and he hurt his suspensory."

Smart Enough's back was still bothering him when he made his first start at Churchill Downs this spring, but Fisher was encouraged when the gelding rebounded with a turf sprint win at Monmouth.

"The penny dropped - he was back to his old self," said Fisher.

Smart Enough could make his next appearance in the $200,000 Arlington Sprint, a 5 1/2-furlong turf race on July 11.

Musketier comes through

Spice Route was looming a heavy favorite in Sunday's Grade 3, $153,825 Singspiel but was scratched and will await the $750,000 United Nations at Monmouth on July 4.

That left Musketier to carry the mail for the Roger Attfield stable, and the gelding delivered with a four-length win over the favored shipper Mission Approved in the 1 1/2-mile turf race.

Jono Jones, aboard Musketier, dogged the front-running Mission Approved in what turned about to be a successful game plan.

"I figured the import would be the pace, and we intended to put Musketier just off him and then gallop by him," Attfield said.

Handle solid

Business was brisk here Sunday, with an all sources total of $5,779,982 wagered on the 11-race program, compared with $5,459,862 last year when picketing by casino security guards undoubtedly had an impact on ontrack business.

Handle on the Queen's Plate itself was $1,843,587, up from $1,704,944 in 2008.

The only higher handles in Woodbine history came on Queen's Plate Day 2003 ($5,814,484) and Breeders' Cup Day 1996 ($9,798,540).

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the age of jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva. He is 33, not 47.