07/08/2010 11:00PM

Ice Bear taking drop, cutting back


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Ice Bear, coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 King Edward, will be dropping in class here Sunday for the $100,000 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes.

The Ontario Jockey Club, an overnight stakes restricted to Ontario foals, required a field of at least five to be carded and made the cut with six entrants.

Ice Bear, a homebred 6-year-old gelding who races for owner George Strawbridge and is trained by Mac Benson, is cutting back from one mile to seven furlongs on the turf course.

"A mile, I think is his optimum distance, but you have to go where the conditions dictate," said Benson.

"He's run very well on the Polytrack, too, but I really think he's a shade better on turf."

Chantal Sutherland, who has ridden Ice Bear to his last five wins dating back to August 2008, retains the mount for the Ontario Jockey Club.

Leading the opposition will be Sand Cove, who is cutting back in distance and switching surfaces following a romping win in the 1 1/16-mile Steady Growth here June 12.

"I'd rather run him two turns, the way he is now, but there really isn't anything else to do with him," said Roger Attfield, who trains the 5-year-old Sand Cove for owner Ralph Johnson.

Sand Cove made his seasonal bow in last year's Ontario Jockey Club and finished third, beaten a pair of necks.

Richard Dos Ramos, who has ridden Sand Cove to seven of his eight career wins and in all but two of his 26 career outings, will be aboard Sunday.

Utterly Cool, who is rounding back into form after being sidelined for almost 18 months, could be very dangerous if allowed any kind of easy lead.

A homebred 4-year-old gelding who races for Jim Dandy Stable and is trained by Sid Attard, Utterly Cool will be making his third start of the season.

Utterly Cool finished second behind stablemate Signature Red in the six-furlong turf prep for the Highlander last time out, and Signature Red came back to win the Grade 2 Highlander at the same distance here last Sunday.

"He's very good right now," said Attard, who will be taking the blinkers off Utterly Cool for the Ontario Jockey Club and has given the call to Patrick Husbands. "Seven-eighths on the turf will be perfect for him."

Rounding out the field will be the restricted stakes winners Grazettes Landing and Don's Folly, both of whom will be seeking their first wins on turf, and Flashy Yankee, who is moving up from the $50,000 claiming ranks.

Baker spots two in Bison City

Reade Baker has entered both Free Fee Lady and Thorn Flower for the $250,000 Bison City, the 1 1/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies which will be the main event here Sunday.

Both Free Fee Lady and Thorn Flower are coming into the Bison City off their maiden victories, with Free Fee Lady having scored over seven furlongs and Thorn Flower at 1 1/16 miles.

Free Fee Lady, bred in Alberta, was purchased by Baker for $30,000 at the yearling sale there for owner Dick Bonnycastle.

"It took her a long time to come around," said Baker, who did not get Free Fee Lady to the races last year.

Free Fee Lady did make a good first impression, however, as she finished second in a seven furlong "B" maiden race here May 22.

Four weeks later, traveling the same distance but in a top-level maiden race, Free Fee Lady was a sharp winner under visiting rider Stewart Elliott.

"Her first race was a dandy," said Baker. "Her second race was a very difficult maiden race, and she ran well.

"She was down on the inside, and she made most of the running."

Baker is not concerned about stretching out Free Fee Lady, who is a daughter of Victory Gallop.

"I don't think it will be a problem," said the trainer.

Thorn Flower, a Stronach Stable homebred, raced three times at 2, finishing second when traveling around two turns in her last two outings, and then wintered with Baker at Palm Meadows.

Baker said he had once considered Thorn Flower for the Woodbine Oaks, "but she hasn't done quite as much as I thought she would."

Thorn Flower began her current campaign with a second-place finish over one mile of sloppy going at Gulfstream and then ran second here at 1 1/16 miles.

In her latest, with Emma-Jayne Wilson aboard, Thorn Flower rallied from last place in a field of six to win by a going-away 2 1/2 lengths as the odds-on choice in a "B" maiden race.

"She swooped the field last time, but I don't know how good the field was," said Baker, who won the 2004 Bison City here with Touch Now and the 1999 renewal with major upsetter Synchronized when the race was run at Fort Erie.

Emma-Jayne Wilson has been named on both Free Fee Lady and Thorn Flower.

Sugar Bay sharpest in work

Sugar Bay turned in the work of the day here Friday as she breezed five furlongs in 59.40 seconds, the fastest of 32 of the distance, under jockey Chantal Sutherland.

"She worked good," acknowledged Mac Benson, who trains the homebred 5-year-old mare for George Strawbridge.

Sugar Bay, sidelined for the entire 2009 season, is winless in three starts since returning but has run well on each occasion and finished second in her last two outings.

While Sugar Bay is nominated to next Sunday's Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares that offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $300,000, Benson may be looking elsewhere.

"Right now, I just want to get her back in a winning way," said the trainer.

Golf tournament on tap

The local division of the Race Track Chaplaincy of Canada will hold its annual golf tournament at the nearby Glen Eagle course on Monday, July 26.

The day includes lunch at noon, a round of golf with a shotgun start beginning at 1 p.m., then dinner and a silent auction.

Tickets are available at $150 or at a discount price of $140 if purchased by Monday.

Dinner only will be offered at $75 with all proceeds going to the chaplaincy.

Tickets are available from Shawn Kennedy at (905) 713-4783.