12/02/2005 1:00AM

Like a Gem eligible to improve


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Danny Vella already has won a pair of 2-year-old filly stakes at Woodbine this year with Knights Templar.

Sunday, Vella will be looking to take home the division's final jewel of the meeting with Like a Gem, who will face five other Ontario-foaled fillies in the $162,050 Ontario Lassie Stakes.

Like a Gem, who races for Garland Williamson's Hillsbrook Farm, won her maiden over five furlongs at first asking and then finished fifth before being disqualified and placed seventh in the seven-furlong Glorious Song.

"That last race was a throw-out; she had no shot," said Vella. "She got pushed down to the inside at the three-eighths pole. She got a little intimidated, and the stewards took us down.

"Then, turning for home - it was partly her fault, and partly because she was in so tight - she bumped into the rail."

Like a Gem, who was beaten just 5 3/4 lengths in the Glorious Song, will be stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for the Ontario Lassie.

"She galloped out well last time," said Vella. "Up until now, she has given me no sign of having any distance limitations."

Like a Gem also will be racing with Lasix for the first time.

"She bled just enough last time to worry you just a little bit," said Vella. "We certainly don't want to take any chances; we don't want to make her scared to run. I think this is a nice filly."

Like a Gem is scheduled to winter with Vella in Florida, along with several other promising 2-year-olds, including Runaway Hit, Igali, and Untouched.

Runaway Hit, a Florida-bred, was an impressive maiden winner here last Saturday while making his second career appearance and stretching out to 1 1/16 miles after running seventh on the turf in his debut.

"I think he's a pretty darn nice colt," said Vella.

Igali, an Ontario-bred colt, has finished fifth in each of his two sprint appearances.

"I will try and run him long," said Vella. "I think he will be an all-right Canadian-bred."

Untouched, an Ontario-bred filly, is winless in three outings.

"She's still immature," said Vella.

Heading into the Ontario Lassie, Wannatalkaboutme was the only other locally based 2-year-old filly with two stakes victories.

Trained by Nick Gonzalez, Wannatalkaboutme was undefeated in three starts, including the open five-furlong My Dear and the 5 1/2-furlong Shady Well for Ontario foals.

Wannatalkaboutme suffered a career-ending ankle injury in late July, however, and sold for $100,000 as a broodmare prospect at Keeneland last month.

Knights Templar resting in Florida

Knights Templar, a Florida-bred owned by Clover IV Stables and Krista Seltzer, already is at Adena Springs South with Mark Roberts, who is the farm manager there and is a partner in the Clover group, which also includes Vella.

A leading candidate for the Sovereign Award in her division, Knights Templar's crowning moment was a 13 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Mazarine here Oct. 1.

Knights Templar also won the six-furlong Ontario Debutante here Aug. 20 and concluded her first campaign in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park.

Sent off at just 8-1 there off her Mazarine score, Knights Templar was asked to set a pressured pace on the inside and weakened to finish sixth in the field of 10.

Vella also conditions a possible Sovereign Award sprinter candidate in Mister Coop, a 6-year-old gelding who races for the R.M.C. Stable of Syd Cooper.

Mister Coop, who moved into Vella's barn this fall, won three sprint stakes and $299,393 this year.

Two of Mister Coop's stakes successes came against Ontario-sired opposition, in the seven-furlong Overskate and the six-furlong New Providence. The other came in the seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras, for Ontario foals.

Kennedy Road may get track record-setter

Sovereign Award balloting closes at 9 a.m. Monday, so next Saturday's six-furlong Kennedy Road, the final sprint stakes of the meeting, obviously will not be a factor in determining the divisional champion.

Leading prospects for the $125,000 Kennedy Road include High Blitz, an impressive winner of the allowance prep for the stakes, and Sophia's Prince, who shattered a long-standing track record for 6 1/2 furlongs when defeating Ontario-sired opposition in the Aug. 7 Shepperton.

Lettherebejustice breezes for Valedictory

Lettherebejustice, who is pointing for the Valedictory Handicap on Dec. 11, worked three furlongs in 35.80 seconds on a fast main track here Friday morning.

"It was just a little breeze to sharpen him up," said Abraham Katryan, who trains Lettherebejustice.

Lettherebejustice, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding, rallied for a three-quarter-length victory in the 1 1/2-mile allowance prep for the Valedictory here Nov. 19.

The $125,000 Valedictory, for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 3/4 miles, is the longest stakes race of the meeting and will share the closing day spotlight with the $125,000 Kingarvie.

Heading the prospective field for the Kingarvie, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds, are stakes winners Pyramid Park and Bad Hat.

Trainer fined, suspended

Trainer Bill Stewart has been fined $1,000 and suspended 15 days after Bedazzle 'Em, winner of the fifth race here July 20, tested positive for guaifenesin.

Guaifenesin, a Class 4 medication, is a cough syrup.

Stewart's suspension was to run from Saturday through Dec. 11, closing day, and from April 1 through April 6, 2006.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will hold its final meeting of the season at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the third-floor Champions lounge.

* First post for the last Wednesday card of the season will be 6:15 p.m.