06/25/2008 11:00PM

Ice Bear steps up for Benson barn


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mac Benson recently lost a graded stakes winner when Arravale, Canada's Horse of the Year in 2006, was retired to prepare for a career in the breeding shed.

That left the role of stable star up for grabs, and Ice Bear can cement his status with a top effort here in Saturday's Grade 2 King Edward Gold Cup at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Ice Bear, a 4-year-old gelding owned and bred by the Augustin Stable of George Strawbridge Jr., established his credentials as a player in the turf division here with a victory in the one-mile Charlie Barley last out, on June 24.

But after disappointing on turf in the Grade 2 Toronto Cup and the Breeders' Stakes, and then on Polytrack for the rest of his campaign, Ice Bear remained something of a work in progress.

Now, with his prospects revived following a successful season debut in an optional $80,000 claimer at a mile on turf here May 30, Ice Bear again seems poised to take the next step.

"He had a great winter; I think his race showed that," said Benson. "I think he got enough out of it. Now, it's whether I can get him to go a mile and an eighth. His best races seem to be a flat mile.

"But he's a year older, and more mature. There's no place else to run him. I tried to get him in the entries over the Poly, but the race didn't fill. I might as well take a shot at this."

Corey Fraser retains the mount on Ice Bear, whose ace in the hole here could be his tactical speed in a race seriously devoid of pace.

Snow Delicious a new shooter

Snow Delicious is an intriguing new face for Sunday's $250,000 Bison City, the 1 1/16-mile race that follows the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks as the second leg of the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Bred in Ontario by Sean Fitzhenry, Snow Delicious sold for $85,000 at the Keeneland yearling sale and won her debut for a $75,000 claiming price going six furlongs on Polytrack at Santa Anita on March 6.

After running fifth there in a first-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs on grass in her second start for trainer Doug O'Neill, Snow Delicious dropped in for $62,500 in a one-mile turf race at Hollywood Park on April 30. Snow Delicious won that day but was claimed by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Four weeks later, in her first start for that new barn, Snow Delicious ran third in a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood.

Shortly thereafter, Snow Delicious was purchased privately by Cardinal Stable, which is the nom du course of Joel Politi and Jonathan Feibel, orthopedic surgeons who are partners in Columbus, Ohio.

They recruited trainer Catherine Day Phillips, who welcomed Snow Delicious into her barn here on June 11.

"We're just getting to know her," said Day Phillips, who sent out Snow Delicious to breeze five furlongs in 1:01.20 here last Saturday. "She's not a big filly, but she's pleasant to be around. She seems to have settled in nicely.

"She seems to be a relaxed filly in her training, which is the style she's been running. She should be able to relax Sunday and make a run."

Jono Jones picks up the mount on Snow Delicious, who will have six rivals in the Bison City.

Heading the Bison City lineup are the Josie Carroll-trained pair of Victory Romance and Authenicat, the two-three finishers in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks here June 8.

Ginger Brew, the six-length Woodbine Oaks winner for Stronach Stable and trainer Brian Lynch, returned to just miss as the lone filly in the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here last Sunday.

Lynch believes he has a capable replacement in Skipping Queen, who won her maiden at 1 1/16 miles in impressive fashion in her third career start here June 5.

Patrick Husbands has the mount on Skipping Queen, who blew out three furlongs in 37 seconds here Thursday.

"I couldn't be more happy with her," said Lynch. "She looks fantastic and she trained like a bear this morning, galloping out strong."

Track objects to financial changes

The Woodbine Entertainment Group, in a strongly worded press release on Wednesday, expressed its disagreement with the recommendations in the industry review panel's report on the horse racing industry in Ontario.

The report, released Tuesday after it was presented to the Ontario government for consideration, contained some sweeping proposals on overhauling the financial basis of the industry.

"The report recognized WEG's flagship role in the Ontario horse racing industry," said David Willmot, chairman and chief executive officer of the company. "Ironically, if the recommendations were implemented, WEG would immediately lapse into a substantial loss position.

"As a not-for-profit company financed entirely by debt, WEG would breach its banking covenants and would not be able to obtain future financing."

One issue pinpointed is the recommendation that the 20 percent of slots revenue that now goes to the track be divided in half between the track and other industry initiatives.

Pizarro appeals two suspensions

Jockey Tyler Pizarro has appealed two separate rulings of three-day and five-day suspensions.

Pizarro was assessed the five-day ban for his ride aboard Talk to Me Girl in the ninth race on June 20.

The stewards ruled that Pizarro came out with his mount and interfered with O.P. Love in the vicinity of the five-sixteenths pole. O.P. Love fell and unseated her rider, Catherine O' Brien, who escaped without injury.

Talk to Me Girl finished sixth but was disqualified and placed last.

* Training on the main track will return to its regular 6-10 a.m. hours this Saturday through Monday. The hours were shifted to 5-8 a.m. this week, in order to expedite construction of the new Standardbred barn adjacent to the racetrack, and will return to that time frame on Tuesday.