11/06/2003 12:00AM

Horsemen see flaws in track's plan


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The timing and not the sentiment is at the root of the local Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association's objection to Woodbine's proposal to begin the 2004 Thoroughbred meeting on April 24.

The alteration in the dates request, which would have to be approved by the Ontario Racing Commission, would leave the length of the meeting at 167 days. Extending the meeting by two weeks, to Dec. 12, and going straight to a five-day-a-week schedule would maintain that status quo.

Delaying the starting date, originally planned for April 2, also would push back the opening of the backstretch by two weeks, to March 1, and give Woodbine additional time to complete extensive renovations, including the retrofitting of six barns.

"We support and applaud the initiative to upgrade the backstretch," said Nick Coukos, executive secretary of the HBPA of Ontario. "It's more of a timing situation and a disruption situation.

"The majority of our members are opposed to delaying the opening to April 24, especially in light of the fact that it is being presented now.

"A lot of them told me that if this had been on the table two months ago, they could have been making plans. Stall applications for most tracks are closed now; that option is not available."

Coukos also is concerned that even March 1 may not be a realistic target date for reopening the backstretch, in light of the scope of the construction scheduled.

"If we were in a jurisdiction where weather wasn't an issue, we'd be much more comfortable," he said.

A later start also would force Woodbine to do some juggling with its stakes schedule, and possibly with its overnight program. Five-furlong races have been the general fare in opening weeks, with the distances gradually increasing, but compacting the season into fewer weeks could affect that progression.

A delayed opening could be bad for the backstretch employment situation, with some workers facing longer layoffs and possibly being forced to look elsewhere for work.

The HBPA and Woodbine management will be meeting early next week to discuss the issues.

No Comprende overdue for stakes win

No Comprende, possibly the best older horse on the grounds who is not a stakes winner, will take another crack at rectifying that situation in Saturday's Woodbine Slots Cup.

A Virginia-bred 5-year-old gelding owned by Clarity Stables and trained by Jim Smith, No Comprende has placed in three stakes and has banked $480,677. He has a record of 6-5-4 from 27 starts.

No Comprende is coming off a closing second-place finish, beaten 1 1/2 lengths at 1 1/16 miles in the mud, in the allowance prep for the Slots Cup. The winner there, Open Concert, came back to romp in the off-the-turf Labeeb here last Sunday.

"That horse got loose on the lead and went wire to wire," said Smith. "[No Comprende] was last down the backstretch; he caught everybody but the winner."

Smith believes that "pace and the way the track plays" will be the keys to No Comprende's chances here Saturday.

His regular local rider, Jim McKnight, will be out of town so Patrick Husbands is being reunited with No Comprende. Husbands was aboard when No Comprende won four straight races, beginning with his maiden victory, here in 2001.

No Beans ships to Hawthorne

McKnight will be at Hawthorne to ride No Beans in the $100,000 Showtime Deb, a six-furlong race that is one of six stakes for Illinois-breds on the program.

"This race has been the plan since before she even started," said trainer Scott Fairlie.

In her debut, No Beans won by 3 1/2 lengths at 5 1/2 furlongs here Sept. 6. In two subsequent starts, in first-level allowance company, No Beans finished second to Silver Bird at 6 1/2 furlongs and third behind Sweet Problem and Ontheqt at six furlongs.

Silver Bird and Sweet Problem are among the field of seven for Sunday's local feature, the seven-furlong Glorious Song. Ontheqt won the Fanfreluche here Oct. 26.

Silver Bird worked four furlongs in 48.60 seconds on the fast main track here Thursday, while Sweet Problem went three furlongs in 37.80.

New riders for Mobil, Parose

The Slots Cup includes some other jockey juggling, the most notable instance involving Mobil and Parose.

Todd Kabel has been the regular rider of Mobil, the probable favorite for the Slots Cup. Mobil had been slated to run in the Labeeb, only to be scratched due to the sloppy going and redirected to the Slots Cup.

In the meantime, Kabel had already accepted a call on Parose, the defending champion in the Slots Cup, whom he rode to victory in the prep for the Durham Cup here Sept. 14.

Kabel was not available for the Durham Cup, as he was at Keeneland to ride Soaring Free in the Shadwell Turf Mile. Jono Jones picked up the mount on Parose and guided the 9-year-old gelding to a two-length win in the Durham Cup.

Jones still will see action in the Slots Cup as he replaces Kabel on Florida Recount, a last-out winner.

Richard Dos Ramos gets the call on Mobil, whom he will ride for the first time since the horses debut here July 27, 2002.

* Winter Garden worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 on the main track Thursday in preparation for the Grade 3, $150,000 Bessarabian, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares here next Sunday. David Clark, who will be seeking his third consecutive win aboard Winter Garden, was aboard for the drill.