09/10/2010 3:49PM

Grand Couturier seeks softer turf in Northern Dancer

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Grand Couturier, winning the Bowling Green last September, has lost his last six starts.

ELMONT, N.Y. − Hoping to find a softer, gentler turf course in Canada than the one he expected to get at Belmont Park, trainer Robert Ribaudo said he would scratch Grand Couturier from Saturday’s Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap and point him to the $750,000 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine on Sept. 19.

Ribaudo said it had rained in Canada during the week and that more rain was expected. He said he feels Grand Couturier is better on a turf course that has some give in it as opposed to a firm turf. Grand Couturier won last year’s Bowling Green over yielding turf.

Though Belmont’s turf course should be in pristine condition since it has not been used since July, it has not rained significantly in the New York Metropolitan area in weeks.

“It’s probably the best it’s going to be [Saturday], but a day like today, no humidity, sun, wind, it’ll suck all the moisture right out of it,” Ribaudo said Friday about Belmont’s turf courses, which have been watered liberally by sprinklers the last few days. “At this stage of the game, he needs an edge, he needs something.”

Grand Couturier has lost six consecutive starts since the Bowling Green. Most recently, he was sixth in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

Ribaudo also noted that Grand Couturier’s speed figures are comparable to the horses who are nominated and expected to run in the Northern Dancer. And the purse of that race is five times greater.

“For that kind of money, you might as well be there than here,” Ribaudo said.

Alan Garcia was scheduled to ride Grand Couturier in the Bowling Green. He picked up the mount on Al Khali since Julien Leparoux had to forgo his later mounts on Saturday’s card in order to ride Informed Decision at Presque Isle Downs on Saturday night.

Ribaudo said Qualia, who was eased in the Grade 1 Ballerina, is “on track” to make the Gallant Bloom Handicap here Sept. 25. Multiple things went awry for Qualia in the Ballerina. She needed a shoe repair in the paddock, and a bumping incident at the break resulted in the saddle slipping.

“She came back good and is back in training, but you want to be careful until she runs back, and you see a good effort again,” Ribaudo said.

Ice Box points to Jamaica on turf

Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box worked on the turf at Saratoga on Friday morning and did enough in the eyes of trainer Nick Zito to warrant a probable start on that surface. Zito said he will consider Ice Box for the Grade 1 Jamaica, run at 1 1/8 miles on the Belmont turf Oct. 8.

Owned by Robert LaPenta, Ice Box worked four furlongs in 51.50 seconds over a firm Oklahoma turf course Friday.

“He went off very slowly and came home very good,” Zito said of the work. “I think it’s another avenue to explore, and Bob wants to try it.”

Ice Box is a son of Pulpit out of Spice Island, who went 4 for 16 and earned more than $300,000 on the turf, including stakes victories in the Grade 2 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct and the Dowager at Keeneland.

Since running second to Super Saver in the Derby, Ice Box has disappointed in his last three dirt starts. He finished ninth but was placed eighth in the Belmont, was sixth in the Haskell, and eighth in the Travers.

Fly Down, Afleet Express work

Zito said Fly Down, beaten a nose by Afleet Express in the Travers, is expected to run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 2. On Thursday, over Saratoga’s Oklahoma dirt surface, Fly Down worked four furlongs in 49.41 seconds.

“He went good,” Zito said. “I’m thinking of the Gold Cup.”

The Gold Cup field will be headed by Whitney winner Blame and is also likely to include Afleet Express, who Friday morning worked an easy half-mile in 50.27 seconds over the Belmont Park training track.

Rail Trip, another horse with Gold Cup aspirations, worked six furlongs in 1:12.56 at Aqueduct on Friday morning in company with Arson Squad, who was given the same time.

Three options for Redding Colliery

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the Jockey Club Gold Cup is one of three races he is considering for Redding Colliery’s next start. The $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Oct. 2 as well as the $300,000 Monmouth Cup at Monmouth Park on Oct. 9 are also possibilities.

On Friday, Redding Colliery worked four furlongs in 47.57 seconds in company with the maiden 3-year-old filly Suroof. Redding Colliery galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.50.

“We work him often in company just to get the riders to work properly,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

Redding Colliery finished second to Duke of Mischief in the Philip Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 21. That was his first start since his 6 3/4-length score in the Lone Star Park Handicap on May 31.

“The track was dry and cuppy. He had been off for a while. He needed the race and finished second,” McLaughlin said, referring to Redding Colliery’s run in the Iselin. “He’ll come on from the race.”

McLaughlin said he would like to keep Redding Colliery racing around two turns, which would make either the Hawthorne or Monmouth race potentially more attractive than the Jockey Club. If Redding Colliery looks to be the potential lone speed in the Gold Cup, however, that could change McLaughlin’s mind.

McLaughlin said he is also looking for spots for handicap horses Tranquil Manner, third in the Woodward, and Marilyn’s Guy, who won a third-level allowance race by 5 1/2 lengths Monday at Philadelphia Park.