04/27/2004 11:00PM

Keogh and his stable stars are back


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mike Keogh is back in town, after spending the off-season at Florida's Palm Meadows with a stopover at Keeneland.

The major goal of Keogh's southern mission was to prepare stable stars Wando, Mobil, and Six Sexy Sisters for their 2004 campaigns.

And while Wando was the only member of the trio - all owned and bred by Gustav Schickedanz - to make a significant contribution to his upkeep, Keogh is more than happy with the venture.

"They're all looking great," Keogh said.

Mobil did not start south of the border, and is slated to make his seasonal debut here in Saturday's $150,000 Vigil, a seven-furlong handicap in which he will carry 120 pounds.

"It's not a bad place to start off the season," said Keogh, who was unable to find an appropriate spot for Mobil at Keeneland. "Seven furlongs obviously is not his best trip, but he did it last year in the Queenston first time out."

After capturing the Queenston, Mobil went on to win the Plate Trial, Toronto Cup, Halton, and Ontario Derby while banking $753,405. But Mobil still played second fiddle to Wando, who left his stablemate a distant runner-up in the Queen's Plate.

Wando went on to sweep the Canadian Triple Crown with wins in the Prince of Wales and Breeders' Stakes, earned $2,017,323, and was voted Canada's Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old.

Judging by Wando's 2004 debut at Keeneland on April 18, when he was a game winner of a classified allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on turf, another banner season could be in store.

Wando is slated to make his next appearance in the Grade 2, $200,000 Dixie, a 1 1/8-mile turf race at Pimlico on May 15.

"I've had that race in the back of my mind," said Keogh, adding that an alternative could be the Grade 3, $150,000 Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile turf race here May 30.

The $1 million Atto Mile, a one-mile turf race here Sept. 19, is a long-term target for Wando, whom Keogh also expects to run on the dirt this year.

Six Sexy Sisters looks to bounce back

Six Sexy Sisters, a 3-year-old full sister to Wando, did not fare nearly as well in her seasonal debut at Keeneland.

Unbeaten here in two starts at 2, including the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie, Six Sexy Sisters was in contention early but faltered to finish last of five in a 6 1/2-furlong second-level allowance on April 17.

"The only thing I can put that race down to is she didn't handle the racetrack," Keogh said. "She scoped clean and came out of it good."

Six Sexy Sisters is nominated to the seven-furlong Fury, a $150,000 race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies on May 9. The Fury is the next local stakes stop on the road to the 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks on June 13.

Ontheqt will wait for Selene

Ontheqt took the first local stakes tune-up for the Oaks last Sunday, winning the open six-furlong Star Shoot by a nose over the heavily favored Nashinda.

Owned by trainer Reade Baker, in partnership with his wife, Janis Maine, Ontheqt also is nominated to the Fury but will await the Grade 2, $250,000 Selene, an open race for 3-year-old fillies here May 23.

The Selene, at 1 1/16 miles, would be Ontheqt's first race beyond six furlongs.

"Obviously, we've got to give her a reasonable try around two turns," said Baker. "It's not like she's been getting to the lead and stopping. She was pretty gritty the other day."

Silver Bird, an Oaks candidate Baker trains for Jim McAlpine, is slated to represent the barn in the Fury.

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk points to Queenston

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk, winner of last Saturday's Woodstock, is slated to continue on the road to the June 27 Queen's Plate with an appearance in the Queenston on May 8.

Owned by Frank DiGiulio and trained by Bob Tiller, the undefeated Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk would be stretching out to seven furlongs after winning his maiden at five furlongs here last fall and taking the six-furlong Woodstock.

"He came out of the race excellent," Tiller said. "We'll go one step at a time. It's tough if you're looking at the Plate. You can't miss a beat, and you have to run every two weeks."

Twisted Wit, also nominated to the Plate, is slated to make his seasonal debut in the Queenston for Tiller and owner Rolph Davis.

Northern Dancer's anniversary

Saturday will be Northern Dancer Day here at Woodbine, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Canadian legend's victory in the 1964 Kentucky Derby.

Highlights will include a poster giveaway, while quantities last, beginning at 11 a.m. on the second floor. Memorabilia on display will include Northern Dancer's Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Queen's Plate trophies.

Elliott has ties to Canada

The Canadian content in this year's Derby is Stewart Elliott, who will ride the undefeated Smarty Jones.

Elliott was born in Toronto, and his mother, Myhill, is an assistant trainer. She has spent the last 25 years working with her brother, trainer Bill Stewart, who has six horses here.

Elliott competed at Woodbine in 1987, winning 22 races.

'Stall man' retires after 23 years

Friday will be the last day on the job for Mike Wasilkowsky, who is retiring at age 65 after working as the "stall man" here for the last 23 years.

Wasilkowsky's racetrack odyssey began April 1, 1966, when he signed on as a hotwalker at Fort Erie, site of the first meeting of that Ontario season. He worked his way up through the ranks and eventually obtained his trainer's license.

Martin Velden, himself a former trainer, has taken over as stabling superintendent after working with Wasilkowsky since last March.

* Advance wagering on Churchill Downs's Saturday program will open at about 3 p.m. Friday at all Woodbine sites. No serial pools, such as the pick three or pick four, or telephone or online wagering will be offered until after the conclusion of Churchill's Friday card.