Updated on 09/18/2011 1:13AM

Like a Gem takes another shot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Like a Gem finished third last time out in the Ontario Colleen, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies here at Woodbine.

On Saturday, Like a Gem will be back in with Essential Edge and Strike Softly, the one-two finishers from the Ontario Colleen, for a rematch in the $125,000 Carotene at 1 1/8 miles on the turf course.

Danny Vella, who trains Like a Gem for her owner and breeder, Garland Williamson, believes his filly can turn the tables on her Ontario Colleen conquerors in the Carotene.

"It seems to me, at this point, that she's better than she's ever been," said Vella. "The filly's a lot sharper, and the distance will suit her better."

Like a Gem has turned in three solid drills since the Sept. 2 Ontario Colleen, with the latest a five-furlong prep of 1:00.80 here on Monday.

As for the question of distance, Like a Gem's major success came here July 29 when she defeated runner-up Strike Softly by a half-length in the $250,000 Wonder Where over 1 1/4 miles of yielding going.

In the Ontario Colleen, also over a yielding surface, Like a Gem was beaten five lengths by Essential Edge and one length by Strike Softly.

Pair of stakes on Thanksgiving card

A stakes doubleheader, made up of the $250,000 Grey and the $125,000 Classy 'N Smart, is on tap for the holiday Monday.

The Grey, a Grade 2 race for 2-year-olds, and the Classy 'N Smart, for Ontario-sired fillies and mares, both will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the Thanksgiving Day program.

But whereas the multiple stakes winner Financingavailable looms as a clear-cut choice for the Classy 'N Smart, the Grey looks to be a wide-open contest.

The list of 28 nominees for the Grey includes 10 Canadian-breds, seven of whom are also nominated to the $250,000 Cup and Saucer six days later.

The Cup and Saucer, restricted to Canadian-breds, is a 1 1/16-mile turf race.

Meanwhile, the six-furlong Bull Page, restricted to Ontario-sired colts and geldings, will be offered next Saturday.

And while trainer Mark Casse may have to do some juggling between the Cup and Saucer and the Bull Page, he has only one option for Skip Code, a Kentucky-bred who is slated to compete in the Grey.

"I'm still trying to figure out how good he is," Casse said.

Skip Code has raced three times and won his maiden last time out at a mile and 70 yards in his first start on Polytrack.

With jockey Emile Ramsammy substituting for Patrick Husbands, who was serving a one-day suspension, Skip Code made the lead on the final turn and opened up in midstretch before holding on to win by a neck.

"The horse wants to come from out of it," said Casse. "He kind of made the lead a little early and pulled himself up."

On Wednesday morning, Skip Code worked five furlongs under Husbands in 1:01.20, tying for the best of 27 works at the distance.

"That's a good work, for him," said Casse.

Seaside Retreat may go to Hawthorne

Casse's high hopes for Seaside Retreat in last Sunday's Ontario Derby were dashed when the colt came down with a virus on the eve of the race.

"He wasn't eating up; it really wasn't like him," said Casse. "He had a temperature. We pulled some bloods on him, and things weren't right.

"That's the first time since I've had him, I think, he's ever been under the weather. It was just very bad timing. He'd been training so well, too."

Seaside Retreat has been nominated to the Grade 3, $250,000 Hawthorne Derby, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds on Oct. 14.

"Our original plan was to run in the Ontario Derby, and then call it a year," said Casse. "Now I'm just going to wait and see how he acts, and go from there. He's been really happy lately, until this happened."

Breeders' Cup seminar Saturday

Jim Mazur and Peter Mallet, co-authors of "Crushing the Cup," will join Jim Bannon for a Breeders' Cup seminar beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday here on the second floor of the grandstand.

Highlights of the session will include an overview of Churchill Downs, the site of this year's Breeders' Cup, plus key handicapping angles and videos of key preps for individual Breeders' Cup races.

Free copies of "Crushing the Cup 2006" and free continental breakfasts will be available, while quantities last.

* Woodbine will offer common-pool wagering on Saturday's NTRA National Pick 4, which includes Breeders' Cup preps at Santa Anita, Belmont, and Keeneland. Belmont will host the pool.