06/03/2008 11:00PM

Gonzalez aims to pad stakes lead


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Nick Gonzalez currently is the top stakes-winning trainer at the meeting, with five wins.

Gonzalez will have a significant chance of adding to that total over the next few days, with contenders in Saturday's Steady Growth, Sunday's Woodbine Oaks, and Wednesday's Bold Ruckus.

Michael's Bad Boy, a 5-year-old gelding, will be making the 14th start of his career but his first stakes appearance in the $125,000 Steady Growth, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

Shilla, successful in the five-furlong La Voyageuse and seven-furlong Fury in her two starts this year, will be looking to give Gonzalez the biggest victory of his career in Sunday's $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Stuck in Traffic, winner of the six-furlong Achievement in his seasonal bow and then second in the seven-furlong Queenston, will return from a brief layoff for Wednesday's $125,000 Bold Ruckus, a six-furlong turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds.

Michael's Bad Boy joined the Gonzalez string at Gulfstream this winter and came to life in his third start for his new outfit, winning a $20,000 claimer for nonwinners of three at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

And Michael's Bad Boy has done nothing but improve since returning to Woodbine, winning a $25,000 open claimer at seven furlongs and a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles, which yielded a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 86.

"What a pleasant surprise he's been," Gonzalez said. "He's on the top of his game like you wouldn't believe. If you're ever going to try and take on the top opposition, this is the time to do it."

Eurico da Silva, who has ridden a meet-leading five stakes winners, including My List in the Whimsical and Hendrie for Gonzalez, retains the mount on Michael's Bad Boy.

Shilla became a stakes winner in the seven-furlong Fanfreluche here last fall after defeating males in a first-level allowance at the same distance. The Woodbine Oaks will be her first start in six weeks and her first around two turns.

"She's all set and ready to go," Gonzalez said. "She's still got that question mark about the distance, but I think she can go that far. When she beat the boys last year I said to myself, if I ever had an Oaks filly, this is going to be one."

To that end, Gonzalez sent Shilla to Gulfstream Park this winter, where she worked well but did not see action.

Gonzalez had planned to start Shilla three times before the Oaks but abandoned the final stage after the filly won the Fury here April 27, electing to proceed directly to the Woodbine Oaks and bypassing the 1 1/16-mile Selene on May 18.

"She could have gone in the Selene, but I just thought it would have been doing a bit too much with her," Gonzalez said. "The six weeks has done her a lot more good than harm. We got three nice works into her and started training her a little different, putting more miles into her, a lot more long jogging and galloping. She took it real good."

Jockey David Clark, who has ridden Shilla in each of her six starts since her debut and has returned victorious on five occasions, will be looking for his third Woodbine Oaks win. His previous successes came with First Summer Day in 1983 and La Lorgnette, whom he went on to guide to victory in the Queen's Plate, in 1985.

Stuck in Traffic back from virus

Clark also is the regular rider of Stuck in Traffic, who had won the six-furlong Vandal and seven-furlong Frost King at 2 and was taken off the Queen's Plate trail following the seven-furlong Queenston.

"He had a virus after he ran in the Queenston," Gonzalez said. "But realistically he wasn't going to go around two turns."

Stuck in Traffic instead went to the nearby farm of veterinarian Leah Guitard, where he engaged in light training in the mornings and was turned out during the afternoons.

"When I got him back into the track, he must have gained about 75 pounds," Gonzalez said. "He looked awesome.

"I'm excited about running him three-quarters on the turf. His daddy [Kiridashi] was a good turf horse, and it's going to be the right distance."

Harlem Rocker stays at Woodbine

There has been a change of plans for Harlem Rocker, the Stronach Stable 3-year-old who had been scheduled to head back to his Belmont base and trainer Todd Pletcher following last Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.

After ending a well-beaten fourth as the 1-5 choice under jockey Eibar Coa in the Plate Trial, which was his first try around two turns and his first on a surface other than dirt, Harlem Rocker remained here with Team Stronach trainer Brian Lynch to prepare for a possible run at the $1 million Queen's Plate here June 22.

"Coa said he just didn't handle the racetrack," Lynch said. "I'm going to work together with Todd; we'll let him train here a little bit and see if he'll adapt to the track.

"He seemed to come out of the race okay. We just walked him the last few days."

Queen's Plate hopefuls drill

Shadowless and Took the Time, who are scheduled to make their next appearances in the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, both breezed five furlongs here Wednesday morning.

Trained by David Bell, Shadowless was clocked in 1:01.80 after tracking 3-year-old filly stablemates Labota and Patience of Job.

"He broke off two or three lengths behind them and just sat behind them until they turned for home and then cruised on by them," Bell said. "I was pretty happy with it."

Emma-Jayne Wilson was aboard for the drill and has the call for the Queen's Plate.

Shadowless is coming off a third-place finish here Mayo24 in a 1 1/8-mile first-level allowance, his first try around two turns.

Took the Time, trained by Mark Casse, went in 1:03.80 while working in company with 3-year-old maiden stablemate Ocean One.

"It was just a very easy breeze," said Casse, adding that Ramon Dominguez would be in to ride Took the Time in the Queen's Plate.

Took the Time finished second to Michael's Bad Boy on May 18 in his first try around two turns.

* Advance wagering on Saturday's Belmont Stakes card will be available beginning 3 p.m. Friday at all Woodbine Entertainment Group locations. Pick-three, pick-four, and pick-six pools will not open until Friday's live Belmont card has ended.