08/10/2008 11:00PM

Generation gap closes a bit


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Jockey Chantal Sutherland and trainer Mac Benson may have been born a few decades apart, but the two had plenty in common at Woodbine last weekend.

Sutherland, 32, and Benson, 78, teamed up to win two stakes here as Sugar Bay captured Saturday's $182,845 Duchess and Ice Bear took Sunday's $100,400 With Approval.

Both wins were accomplished by a nose and were part of an incredible weekend in which Sutherland recorded six victories, with four coming by the same scant margin.

"This little girl seems to be doing everything right," said Benson.

The same could be said of the seven-furlong Duchess winner, Sugar Bay, a homebred 3-year-old filly owned by George Strawbridge Jr. who had won a first-level allowance in Sutherland and Benson's only previous collaboration this season.

With the next local sprint stakes for Sugar Bay within her division being the 6 1/2-furlong Ruling Angel, an overnight stakes on Oct. 22, Benson will be exploring other options.

"The way she ran Saturday, I think we might be able to get a mile with her," said Benson.

The Aug. 30 Ontario Colleen, a $150,000 race for 3-year-old fillies, is run over one mile but is on the turf, a surface over which Sugar Bay has no experience.

"She's by a horse who was a stakes winner on grass," said Benson. "I will work her on the grass, but I'm a firm believer that if they're going to like grass they'll run good on it first time."

Surface switch likely helped

Ice Bear is a stakes winner on the grass, but Benson still was hoping that the With Approval would be moved to the main track after rain had continued to drown the turf course.

"It wouldn't help me as much as it would hurt the others," said Benson, who got his wish as the With Approval was run on Polytrack and Ice Bear recorded his third win over the surface.

Ice Bear, a 4-year-old gelding, also is a Strawbridge homebred. While he is nominated to the Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King, a seven-furlong turf race here Aug. 23, Benson is unsure of his next target.

"He's doing so good right now, but I like to take it one step at a time," said Benson.

"I'd hate to throw him to the lions. He's just started getting confidence, and there's no telling how much he'll be able to accumulate.

"But if you knock him down, there's no telling how far down he can go."

Rider filled with positive energy

Sutherland was going nowhere but up as she was 5 for 9 with a pair of seconds on Saturday and 1 for 2 while losing two rides through scratches on Sunday.

After winning Saturday's third race by an airy 21 lengths aboard Storm Castle ($5.50), Sutherland doubled up with a 1 1/4-length score aboard Ourania ($8.90) and then won by a nose with Sugar Bay ($9.60), Dozen Dancer ($13.70) and Bold Course ($16.60).

"I was feeling really positive," said Sutherland. "I was in a good frame of mind - focused, strong.

"I was on some good horses running good races. I was just going with the flow, having fun."

Sutherland's success aboard Bold Course typified the good fortune that a rider on a roll seems to generate.

A 4-year-old filly trained by Debbie England making her first start, Bold Course encountered traffic problems on the far turn and again entering the stretch.

"I was blocked at the quarter pole, and had to dive inside," said Sutherland. "For a first-timer, that's hard.

"Coming down the stretch I thought I was going to be second. Then, I saw the rider on the leader drop his stick and I thought, 'Wow, this is really going to be my day.' "

Heading into this week's action with 53 winners at the meeting and in a tie for fourth with Emile Ramsammy, Sutherland has mounts in all eight races on Wednesday's program.

She then will serve a three-day suspension after dropping her appeal of a stewards' ruling following her ride aboard Breeders' Stakes runner-up Sligovitz. Sutherland was cited for her fourth whip infraction of the season.

Sutherland has obtained permission to ride Sunday under the designated stakes rule, as she has the mount on Executive Flight for the Victoriana, and will complete her suspension next Wednesday.

Maiden victory comes in stakes

Win and Reign, owned and bred by the Hillsbrook Farm of Garland Williamson and trained by Nick Gonzalez, won his maiden in his second start, Sunday's $150,000 Vandal, a six-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 2-year-olds.

"He just loves being a racehorse," said Martha Gonzalez, assistant and wife to Win and Reign's trainer, Nick Gonzalez, following the colt's victory under jockey David Clark. "He's a bit of a nervous horse, but he's easy to train. I took him out and trained him this morning. I jogged him a mile."

Win and Reign, being Ontario-sired, will have several restricted stakes opportunities and others in Canadian-bred and open company throughout the balance of the meeting.

"David said once he found himself on the lead, he still didn't know what he was doing," said Gonzalez. "He should get better as he goes along."

Win and Reign gets some serious pedigree support, as his dam is It's a Ruby, and his older siblings include the multiple stakes winner Like a Gem, who was retired this spring and is in foal to Hard Spun, and Cool Gator, who was one of the early favorites for this year's Queen's Plate before being injured.

Williamson also has high hopes for Its a Ruby's yearling colt, by Tale of the Cat, and weanling colt, by Stormy Atlantic.

"They all like to run - that's the main thing," said Williamson.

Williamson, whose horses had been trained by Danny Vella, transferred them to the Gonzalez outfit this summer and is looking forward to seeing Cool Gator back at the racetrack.

"He's at the farm, getting over his little injury," said Williamson. "If everything goes as planned, we'll get him back here in a couple of weeks.

"We'll let him tell us when he's ready to run."