05/23/2008 12:00AM

Invader Royal Oath adds intrigue to Connaught Cup


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - English raider Royal Oath spices up Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Connaught Cup, which is the first turf stakes of the Woodbine meeting.

Royal Oath won three races in England, including a one-mile handicap at Ascot last June. He ran twice over the winter in Dubai, finishing second and fifth in a pair of Group 2 events.

Royal Oath is trained by John Gosden, but he will be turned over to Mark Casse after the 1 1/16-mile Connaught.

Casse believes that Royal Oath could establish himself as one of the elite older runners at Woodbine.

"He's a pretty good horse," said Casse. "He beat 25 horses in a handicap at Royal Ascot. When he finished second in Dubai, it was against some of the best grass horses in the world."

Casse entered the rejuvenated veteran Moonshine Hall, who won the Charlie Barley Stakes as a 3-year-old here in 2003.

Moonshine Hall has won four starts in a row, dating back to a $35,000 claimer in last spring at Belmont. He toppled $50,000 claimers off a six-month layoff Dec. 28 at Fair Grounds, and didn' see action again until he won an optional claimer there March 13.

Most recently, in a one-mile allowance at Keeneland, Moonshine Hall rallied very wide to prevail over a quality field.

"He's been thriving," said Casse. "He just amazes me. He's 8, and he thinks that he's 2. He's not very big. He's been training really well."

French Beret also had a successful winter campaign at Fair Grounds. He won the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley Handicap in January, and earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure when second in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap in March.

Trainer Mark Frostad said he wasn't sure why French Beret blossomed into a graded-stakes performer during the winter.

"I hope it's not the fact that he likes two turns and a smaller turf course, rather than our turf course," Frostad said. "Certainly, his attitude is better this year, and he seemed to turn it around when he got to Fair Grounds."

Frostad said he was disappointed with the race shape in French Beret's last start, when the gelding wound up third in a 1 1/8-mile allowance at Keeneland.

"There was a slow pace up front, and he was back," said Frostad. "There just wasn't enough pace for him to run at."