07/09/2006 11:00PM

A healthy Strike Softly shows true ability

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Strike Softly, one of many victims of the virus that made the rounds at Woodbine last month, obviously didn't put her best foot forward in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks on June 11.

And that made Strike Softly something of a question mark here heading into last Sunday's $152,000 Ontario Damsel, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies.

"I didn't really know what to expect from her," said Mark Frostad, who trains Strike Softly for owner-breeder Sam-Son Farm.

"She was pretty knocked out going into the Oaks. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have run her. But for $500,000, you have to take a shot."

Strike Softly finished a soundly beaten seventh in the Woodbine Oaks, but evidently was none the worse for the experience as she rebounded to win the Ontario Damsel by a solid length.

"She came out of the Oaks better than I expected," said Frostad. "And, she worked really well last week."

Strike Softly was trying turf for the first time and registering her first stakes score in the Ontario Damsel.

Prior to the Woodbine Oaks, Strike Softly had finished third in the Fury over seven furlongs on the main track.

"She handles either surface," said Frostad. "It's pretty nice to have a versatile horse."

Upcoming summer stakes options for Strike Softly include the $250,000 Wonder Where, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies here July 29; the $150,000 Duchess, an open 7 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies here Aug. 12; and the $125,000 Ontario Colleen, an open one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies here Sept. 2.

Strike Softly was the third stakes winner of the meeting for Frostad and Sam-Son and the meet-leading sixth for rider Todd Kabel.

That Sam-Son team plans to be back in action this Saturday with turf specialist French Beret in the $150,000 Toronto Cup.

French Beret, who is coming off a second-place finish behind Seaside Retreat here in the one-mile Charlie Barley, will be stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the Toronto Cup, an open race for 3-year-olds.

'News' has a nose for the wire

Spread the News gave trainer Bob Tiller his first stakes win of the season in last Saturday's $150,400 Clarendon, a five-furlong race for Canadian-foaled 2-year-olds.

The Clarendon also was the first stakes contested over Woodbine's inner seven-furlong Standardbred oval, which has undergone a makeover and will play host to the Thoroughbreds while Polytrack is installed to replace the former dirt surface here.

Purchased for $77,000 at the local select yearling sale, Spread the News was making his third start and registering his second straight score after finishing an unlucky second in his debut. Both wins were by a neck.

"I'm getting higher on him every start," said Tiller. "He's not going to win his races by much, but he's going to get it done. He's got heart; he wants to win. He impressed me Saturday; I saw a lot I liked."

Spread the News, an Ontario-sired gelding owned by Tiller in partnership with Frank DiGiulio, is nominated to the $125,000 Colin, an open five-furlong race here July 22, but may skip that dance.

"I'm inclined to keep him with Canadian-breds," said Tiller. "And, I don't think he's a real five-furlong horse.

"I don't think he's a real fast horse. Right now, he's just beating these because he's a better horse."

Tiller noted that the $125,000 Simcoe, a seven-furlong yearling sales stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings here Sept. 4, will be a logical target for Spread the News.

Midnight Shadow preps for stakes

In the meantime, Tiller will go for a second straight success in a 2-year-old stakes as Midnight Shadow is scheduled to run in Sunday's five-furlong Shady Well.

Midnight Shadow finished a closing fourth in her debut and was an impressive maiden winner of her next start, at five furlongs. She will be one of the leading contenders in the $150,000 Shady Well for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies.

"She's got some talent," said Tiller. "I just hope she keeps her mind intact. I've had some problems with her at the gate."

Midnight Shadow breezed a half-mile in 48.60 seconds here Sunday while going in company with Dancer's Bajan, a colt who finished second behind Spread the News in his only start. Dancer's Bajan was clocked in 48.40.