06/24/2010 11:00PM

Gonzalez in the hunt for big game


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Early this week, trainer Nick Gonzalez passed the 1,000-win milestone.

And now the 58-year-old Gonzalez, who sent out his first winner in the spring of 1976, plans to shoot for the biggest prize of his career when Big Red Mike starts in next Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate.

Big Red Mike, a homebred owned by the Terra Racing Stable of Dom Romeo, registered a front-running upset in his fifth career start and stakes debut, the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 13. With Eurico Rosa da Silva in the irons for the first time, Big Red Mike battled back in the stretch to prevail by a half-length and earn a career high Beyer Speed Figure of 94.

"He took his race real good," said Gonzalez. "He's just been doing his normal training routine since then, with exercise rider Terry Brooker, the same kind of preparation he had going into the Trial."

Big Red Mike did pick it up a notch on Friday morning when he breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 with Da Silva aboard.

R Shining Hope, a 3-year-old turf allowance winner trained by Gonzalez, provided company for Big Red Mike.

Clocker Mike Lym caught Big Red Mike going in fractions of 24.40, 35.60, and 48.80 seconds before galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.20 and pulling up through seven furlongs in 1:30.20.

"Working him with another horse keeps him paying attention," said Martha Gonzalez, who is Nick's wife and assistant and oversees the day-to-day doings at Woodbine while her husband runs a large stable at Fort Erie. "They stayed together, and Big Red Mike galloped out away from him.

"I was very pleased. He's a very happy horse right now, and I think that's three-quarters of the battle."

Big Red Mike's workout followed a different blueprint from his final drill before the Plate Trial, in which he sat behind a pair of stablemates before taking charge. The plan had been to prepare Big Red Mike to sit off the pace if need be, and while circumstances dictated otherwise, the scenario well could change in the Queen's Plate.

"We're aware that there's going to be a big field, and a different kind of pace," said Nick Gonzalez. "We still want to try and rate him."

Gonzalez also is well aware that Big Red Mike can tend to be excitable, a trait he displayed when bucking off Da Silva during the post parade for the Plate Trial.

"There'll be a lot of horses, and a lot of people, in the walking ring," said Gonzalez. "We're going to have to work on that, quiet him down a little bit before the race. The horse has got to maintain his composure. But, that's just him. If he went over there as quiet as a mouse, I'd be worried."

Mobilizer works for Plate

Mobilizer, one of the leading contenders for the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate, also had his final major drill for the race Friday, going six furlongs in 1:13.40 under regular rider Jono Jones.

Meking Melody, a stakes-winning 5-year-old mare, worked inside Mobilizer with Chantal Sutherland in the irons and was clocked in 1:13.80.

Mobilizer was timed in fractions of 25.40 seconds, 37.20, 49, and 1:02 before galloping out in 1:27 and pulling out through a mile in 1:42.

"It was very, very nice," said trainer Roger Attfield, who is happy with his position heading into the Queen's Plate and plans to put the finishing touches on Mobilizer's preparation with a quarter-mile blowout here Saturday morning.

Mobilizer will be looking to give Attfield a record ninth Queen's Plate victory and should attract more than a passing glance from Queen Elizabeth II, who will be in attendance.

Motivator, who is the sire of Mobilizer and won the Epsom Derby, stands at Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham Stud. Mobilizer's dam, Kris Is It, is a daughter of Kris S.

"I wouldn't think the mile and a quarter would be a problem, with his pedigree," said Attfield. "We just need to stay healthy now."

Hollinger not going

Hollinger, who had been the toast of the town when going undefeated in four starts last year en route to a Sovereign Award as champion male 2-year-old, is off the Queen's Plate trail.

"He's definitely not going," said Attfield, who trains the homebred Hollinger for Bob Harvey and Al Wortzman. "He's not doing very well. I haven't been happy with him, and I haven't liked his two races this year."

Hollinger, who capped his first campaign with victories in the Cup and Saucer over 1 1/16 miles of turf and the Coronation Futurity over 1 1/8 miles on the main track, spent the winter with Attfield in Florida.

Sent off as the odds-on choice when he made his first start in six months here in the seven-furlong Queenston, Hollinger was prominent early but faltered to be beaten 7 1/4 lengths as the fourth-place finisher. Three weeks later, in the Plate Trial, Hollinger forced Big Red Mike's pace but then stopped badly to finish last in the field of eight, beaten 14 1/2 lengths.

Bit of a name game

Will the real Hotep please stand up?

Hotep, to be ridden by Patrick Husbands, will be one of the favorites for the Queen's Plate.

Agent Gary Kemplen, who represents Husbands, reports that he also has the call on Im Hotep (no relation), a 2-year-old who is scheduled to ship in for Saturday's $150,000 Clarendon.

Im Hotep, who is based at Saratoga with trainer Todd Pletcher, would be making his debut in the Clarendon, a 5 1/2-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 2-year-olds.

Mekong Melody set to return

Mekong Melody, who has been off since capturing the Flaming Page over 1 1/2 miles of soft turf here last Dec. 27, is scheduled to return in the Dance Smartly July 18.

"The prep didn't go," said Attfield, "so I'll have to train her up to the Dance Smartly.

A 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, the Dance Smartly offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $300,000.