08/03/2010 12:13PM

Jones has happy return with Unzip Me

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Martin Jones had made his first and only previous visit to Woodbine in 1995, when he was working with his father, trainer Gary Jones, and watched Morgana finish sixth in the E.P. Taylor Stakes.

On Monday, Jones was back at Woodbine to send out Unzip Me as the odds-on favorite in the Royal North, a six-furlong turf race for fillies and mares that offered Grade 3 status and a purse of $157,400.

Unzip Me had come into the Royal North after having a five-race winning streak snapped in Hollywood’s June 27 Robert K. Kerlan Memorial Handicap, a six-furlong turf race in which she had faced males for the first time.

Joe Talamo, who now has ridden Unzip Me in her last four starts and to five of her eight career victories, was making just his second appearance here after piloting Wynning Ride to a fourth-place finish in last year’s Woodbine Oaks for trainer Bob Baffert.

Jones, while marveling at the changes that had taken place here since his last visit, also had occasion to enjoy a virtuoso performance by Unzip Me, who had stalked the early pace of New York invader Mother Russia before coming on to score by a comfortable two lengths.

“I was a little bit surprised she wasn’t on the lead,” said Jones.

“I think Joe rode one of his best races on her. He was very patient. The real long stretch here changed the way he rode her, and she really settled.

“She’s a very talented filly, who doesn’t need the lead. I think she showed that here.”

Jones actually had been attracted to the Royal North because of the configuration of the turf course, with its one sweeping turn and long stretch run.

“She’s really had trouble running on tight turns, like at Del Mar,” said the trainer. “I thought maybe the outside course here would suit her well, and that it was time to try and ship her and see how she did.”

That being said and done, Unzip Me will be heading back to California with a long-term eye toward the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong race at Santa Anita this fall.

“I’ll give her some time, to recover from this trip,” said Jones.

Casse barn stumbles

Trainer Mark Casse’s Saratoga invasion started off well when Exclusive Love finished second in last Wednesday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Lake George, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies.

But the results were far less encouraging last Sunday as Tasty Temptation finished last of five in the 1 1/8-mile Ruffian and So Elite ended fifth of seven in the 1 1/8-mile Curlin.

Tasty Temptation and So Elite both were trying dirt for the first time.

“Sometimes it’s hard to go from Polytrack to a racetrack like Saratoga, where it’s so deep,” said Casse.

So Elite, who was sent off at 3-1 in the Curlin, made a menacing move around the far turn but came up empty in the stretch run.

“He came out a little banged up,” said Casse. “Around the turn there was some jostling around. But, he’s okay.”

Tasty Temptation, sent off at 9-2 for the Ruffian, tried to stay within striking distance while sitting third off a quick pace set by Malibu Prayer and Unrivaled Belle but weakened.

“At the half-mile pole, she was all out trying to catch the leaders,” said Casse.

Casse said that jockey Julien Leparoux had told him that “she probably could have finished third, if he’d ridden her to finish third. But, we didn’t come down here for that.”

Casse also had some very anxious moments with Tasty Temptation in the immediate wake of the Ruffian.

“She couldn’t catch her breath, for about 15 minutes,” said Casse. “She was in a lot of distress.

“It wasn’t heat stroke – I don’t know why it happened. In the past, she’s come back from her races a lot of times and not taken a deep breath.”

Casse has no immediate plans for either Tasty Temptation or So Elite.

“They’ll both take a while to get over it,” said Casse. “I’m not going to rush them back.”

In the meantime, Casse will send out Barracks Road for Friday’s $70,000 Hattie Moseley, a one-mile overnight turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Exclusive Love, who returned to Woodbine following the Lake George, is scheduled to ship back to Saratoga for the Lake Placid, a Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies on Aug. 22.

Essence Hit Man sizzles in defeat

Essence Hit Man, the top local 3-year-old sprinter at Woodbine this year, also took his show on the road to Saratoga and finished a commendable second in Monday’s Grade 2, 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam.

With his regular rider, Chantal Sutherland, in the irons, Essence Hit Man cut out a wicked pace of 21.45 seconds, 44.0 and 1:07.76 before giving way to odds-on choice Discreetly Mine near the three-sixteenths pole.

The track record for six furlongs is 1:08.

While Discreetly Mine went on to score by 8 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:14.27, Essence Hit Man held on gamely to hold second place by 1 1/2 lengths.

Essence Hit Man was back in his stall by 5 a.m. on Monday after a 7 1/2-hour van ride from Saratoga, looking fresh and fit as a fiddle.

“The shipping didn’t stress him out at all,” said assistant trainer Paul Wilson. “He maintained his weight well.”

Wilson had checked into Saratoga with Essence Hit Man four days before the Amsterdam and quickly adapted to his new surroundings.

“He settled in and adjusted to the program,” said Wilson. “I schooled him in the paddock last Saturday, the day of the Jim Dandy, in front of 20,000 people, and he handled that well.”

Essence Hit Man is trained by Audre Cappuccitti, who also is a co-owner and breeder of the gelding in partnership with her husband, Gord Cappuccitti.

With no sprint stakes for straight 3-year-olds remaining on the Woodbine schedule, the Cappuccittis will be studying their options before deciding on Essence Hit Man’s next engagement.