07/14/2005 12:00AM

Gamblers Slew takes on invaders in Cup

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Gamblers Slew, who has thrived on the turf course here this year, will be looking to repel three invaders as the 119-pound highweight here in Saturday's Toronto Cup.

The $161,250 Toronto Cup, an open 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, has attracted a field of five, including Chatham Strait from Kentucky and the Maryland-based Bestowed and T.D. Vance.

"This is a stepping-stone, to see what we have," said Jody Hammett, who trains Gamblers Slew for Herbert Chambers. "I don't think we've seen his whole potential yet."

Gamblers Slew, winner of his first start at 2 but then unplaced when he bucked shins in the Silver Deputy, returned this spring and has been perfect in his two appearances, both on turf under rider Rui Pimentel.

After winning a first-level allowance at six furlongs here May 29, Gamblers Slew stretched out to a mile for the open-company Charlie Barley, and registered a convincing score. Both victories were accomplished in front-running fashion, and Gamblers Slew must now negotiate another furlong.

"That's definitely the question," said Hammett. "But he's definitely bred to go the distance, and with the way he trains and the way he runs - he comes back not tired, whatever he does."

Hammett also believes Gamblers Slew can adjust to a different pace scenario if the need should arise.

"If Rui has to take hold of him, I don't think that will be a problem," said Hammett. "He's the type of horse that does what he has to do."

Bestowed is undefeated in three starts, all in turf races at Belmont this spring. Trained by Michael Dickinson, Bestowed merits respect here despite stepping up in company.

Bestowed employed a stalking style while winning his maiden, a first-level allowance, and a second-level allowance in the span of just over six weeks.

Bestowed gets in with 116 pounds and will be ridden for the first time by Patrick Husbands.

Chatham Strait is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race at Churchill Downs. While he raced toward the front there, Chatham Strait has been effective from off the pace and a return to that style seems likely.

Robert Landry has picked up the mount on Chatham Strait, who is trained by Joan Scott and will carry 117 pounds.

T.D. Vance was beaten a nose last time out in the Restoration, a 1 1/16-mile turf race at Monmouth, and has raced on or near the lead in each of his three turf starts. He is trained by Graham Motion.

Todd Kabel takes over aboard T.D. Vance, who is the second highweight at 118 pounds.

Rounding out the field are Area Limits, a maiden trained by Roger Attfield.

Toronto Cup too soon for Palladio

Attfield nominated Palladio to the Toronto Cup, but the horse will be staying in the barn this weekend.

Winner of the Grade 2 Ohio Derby on dirt at Thistledown July 2, Palladio is even more effective on turf, according to Attfield.

"To run him back in two weeks, after shipping and with this hot weather, wouldn't be the right thing to do," said Attfield.

"He has a long fall ahead of him; he has a number of options."

Attfield mentioned races such as the July 30 Jim Dandy at Saratoga, the Sept. 5 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park, and the Oct. 1 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs as potential targets for Palladio.

Stag Nation finished for the year

Stag Nation, who had been under consideration for both the Toronto Cup and Sunday's Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, suffered an injury when working out here Monday. X-rays revealed the undisclosed problem the next day.

"It's not life-threatening and it's not career-threatening," said Danny Vella, who trains Stag Nation. "But, he's out for the year."

Stag Nation, a colt owned by Class Action Stable, finished second last time out in the Charlie Barley.

Vibank out two or three months

Vibank, a 2-year-old colt who has won his last three starts, including the June 19 Victoria and last Saturday's Clarendon, will be heading out to the farm for a break of two or three months, trainer Josie Carroll said Thursday.

"He had some filling in one ankle after the last race," said Carroll. "It had tightened down and looked fine by the next day, but we took an X-ray to be safe and there were some changes in the ankle.

"It's probably a maturity issue so we're going to give him some time to grow up and let his bone remodel."

Carroll would not rule out the possibility of Vibank returning to action before year's end.

Vibank, an Ontario-bred owned by Jim and Alice Sapara, was purchased at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $280,000. He has earned $225,300 in four outings here, with his only loss a second-place finish in his debut.

Italian Day Sunday

Sunday is Italian Day at Woodbine.

The festivities will feature human foosball, a spaghetti-eating contest, and live entertainment.

Jockey Dino Luciani and former Toronto Maple Leaf Lou Franceschetti will be on hand to autograph photographs, beginning at 11 a.m. on the second floor.