08/12/2007 11:00PM

Jambalaya true rags to riches story


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The celebration had started late Saturday afternoon when Jambalaya, owned by the Phillipses' Kingfield Racing Stable, upset the Grade 1 Arlington Million and earned an automatic berth in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Monmouth on Oct. 27. And now Todd Phillips was sleeping soundly at the desk of his wife, trainer Catherine Day Phillips, after having spent the previous 12 hours driving a horse van back from Arlington Park.

"It's been overwhelming," Day Phillips said of the response to Jambalaya's latest coup for Canadian racing and breeding. "He's been like the ultimate fairy tale."

Jambalaya, purchased for just $2,500 as a yearling at Keeneland, now has earned nearly $1.7 million. As a gelding at the relatively tender age of 5, there could be plenty more where that came from.

"He's everybody's dream," said Day Phillips. "It's like anyone could say, 'If I had $2,500, I could have had a horse like him.' It makes a very elite world seem accessible."

Meanwhile, Jambalaya the superhero was looking anything but as he stretched in his stall and then hung his head over the screen while trying to fend off sleep.

"He's such a nice, kind horse to be around," said Day Phillips. "But as relaxed as he is, he's fiercely competitive."

Day Phillips is considering several races for Jambalaya's next start, including the Grade 2, $300,000 Sky Classic here at Woodbine on Sept. 23. The Sky Classic probably would represent the last opportunity for Jambalaya to make a third start in Canada this season - a prerequisite for Sovereign Award consideration.

"I would say that's a consideration, but it's not a driving factor," said Day Phillips. "I would like nothing more than to have him win a Sovereign, but our focus is on his career and keeping him happy, healthy, and sound."

Bear Now eyes Philadelphia stakes

Bear Now had failed to fire her best shot in the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks on July 14.

But, any thoughts that Bear Now would have trouble returning to a one-turn race seemed ludicrous after she romped to a 6 1/4-length victory in the seven-furlong Duchess for 3-year-old fillies here last Saturday.

Bear Now, who was ridden by Jerry Baird for the first time in the Duchess, had jockey Jim McAleney in the irons during her final tune-up for the Duchess here last Sunday.

"The way she worked last time, Jimmy said the distance would be no problem," said Baker, who trains Bear Now for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion. "She ran like a champion."

Bear Now, a Kentucky-bred, certainly is a leading contender for the Sovereign Award in the 3-year-old filly division.

Each of Bear Now's three stakes victories this year has come in open company, as she scored by eight lengths in the Grade 3 Selene at 1o1/16 miles and followed up with a 9o3/4-length victory over older fillies and mares in the 1 1/16-mile Hill 'n' Dale.

Sealy Hill, the other solid candidate for the divisional title, also sports a Grade 3 victory, in the one-mile Bourbonette at Turfway Park in March.

A homebred owned by Eugene Melnyk and trained by Mark Casse, Sealy Hill since has been the official winner of two-thirds of the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

After capturing the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks, Sealy Hill appeared to have repeated here in the 1 1/16-mile Bison City but had her number taken down and was placed third.

That decision was appealed, and in the interim Sealy Hill came back to win the Wonder Where, the 1 1/4-mile turf race that is the third leg of the series.

Sealy Hill breezed five furlongs in 1:01 here last Saturday and is eyeing the Grade 1, $250,000 Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont on Sept. 8.

Bear Now is scheduled to make her next start in the Grade 2, $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion, a 1o1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 22.

Sterwins a turf star on the rise

A star may have been born here Sunday as Sterwins, owned and bred by Eugene Melnyk and trained by Malcolm Pierce, recorded his first stakes win in the $75,400 With Approval at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Sterwins, who had finished second in last year's Queen's Plate when trained by Todd Pletcher, was making his second start for Pierce after rallying strongly for second in the $77,700 Ontario Jockey Club at seven furlongs on turf here July 21.

Both the With Approval and the Ontario Jockey Club are overnight stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

"He's a pretty useful horse," said Pierce. "I don't think he has to stay on grass. He's worked very well here on Polytrack."

Pierce also had nominated Sterwins to the Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King, a seven-furlong turf race here Aug. 25 that is the major local prep for the Woodbine Mile, and was prepared to run there if the With Approval had not filled.

The Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile will be run on Sept. 16.

"That's something we'd have to discuss," said Pierce, referring to the possibility of pointing Sterwins for the Woodbine Mile. "But right now, he's on a high note."