06/17/2008 11:00PM

Keogh has high hopes for maiden


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mike Keogh was squarely in the Queen's Plate spotlight in 2003, when he sent out the top two choices and one-two finishers in Wando and Mobil.

On Sunday, Keogh returns to the Queen's Plate for the first time since then, and he will be operating well beneath the radar. Whereas Wando and Mobil were proven stakes winners, coming into the Queen's Plate off successes in major preps, D. Flutie is a maiden after four starts.

However, Keogh isn't shy when it comes to evaluating his chances.

"I think he's got a big shot," said Keogh, who trains D. Flutie for owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz. "I've always been high on him. He works like a really good horse, and I don't think he'll have any problem with the distance."

D. Flutie didn't get much of a chance to show his stuff at 2, finishing a troubled sixth in his only race in late October.

"His shins kept holding me up," said Keogh. "Every time I got him up to a half-mile, I'd have to back him off for a month or so.

"That's the one thing that worries me - that I didn't get enough into him last year."

In December, D. Flutie shipped down to Schickedanz's winter quarters in Aiken, S.C.

"He didn't miss much time," said Keogh. "I turned him out for three weeks, to give him a bit of a vacation, but he was back training in early January."

Back at Woodbine in early March, D. Flutie began prepping in earnest for the Queen's Plate.

"There haven't been any hiccups," said Keogh, who has seen D. Flutie run competitive races at seven furlongs, 1 1/16 miles, and 1 1/8 miles while experiencing some extenuating circumstances.

"He shouldn't be a maiden; let's just put it that way," said Keogh.

The trainer also was especially pleased with D. Flutie's final workout for the Queen's Plate, as the colt drilled six furlongs in 1:11.40 here last Sunday.

"That was a really good work," said the trainer.

Keogh will be seeking his third win in the Queen's Plate, having also captured the 1999 running with Woodcarver.

Emile Ramsammy, who has the mount on D. Flutie, also has won a pair of Plates, with Victory Cooley in 1996 and Edenwold in 2006.

Frostad thinks Harvest Home will relish 10 furlongs

Victor Cooley was the first of three Queen's Plate winners for trainer Mark Frostad, who also sent out Scatter the Gold and Dancethruthedawn to win back-to-back runnings in 2000 and 2001.

Frostad also will be represented by a maiden in this year's Queen's Plate in Harvest Home, who will be making his fourth career start.

Harvest Home begin his career at Keeneland on April 19 with a closing fourth at 1 1/16 miles.

In his two appearances here, Harvest Home was sixth going 1 1/16 miles and then fourth at 1 1/8 miles, finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind D. Flutie.

"It's a wide-open race, and the mile and a quarter will be right down his alley," said Frostad. "It's too bad it's not on turf - he's probably a nicer turf horse, but Poly is the next best thing, so we're going to take a shot."

Harvest Home will be the third Queen's Plate mount for jockey Corey Fraser.

Pronger well-spotted to win first race

Although quality races are on tap this weekend, Friday's nine-race card lacks a true feature. The largest purse of the day is $66,000 in race 4, a seven-furlong sprint for maidens.

Pronger, a 3-year-old gelding who once was a Queen's Plate nominee, continues to have difficulty getting it all together, but this move back to a main-track sprint could lead to graduation.

Justin Stein, who regains the mount, rode Pronger to a second-place finish at seven furlongs in his first start of the year, on May 31.

"I thought his first race was real good," said trainer Mike DePaulo. "I'm hoping that's his distance."

Pronger breezed four furlongs on the training track here last Friday in 48.40 seconds, his latest in a series of good drills.

Baker ships three for out-of-town stakes

Trainer Reade Baker will be active on several stakes fronts this weekend.

Friday, Baker will be at Belmont Park to saddle Storm Caller for the 1 1/16-mile Yankee Victor, a $75,000 overnight stakes.

Storm Caller finished second at 36-1 in the Grade 3, seven-furlong Vigil in his first start of 2008 here May 19.

Baker is 2 for 3 at Belmont this spring, sending out Northern Netti to take the $109,300 Bouwerie on May 4 and Find the Wire to win his maiden on June 5.

Saturday, Baker will be in Virginia to send out Kentucky Bear for the Grade 3, $600,000 Colonial Turf Cup, a 1 3/16-mile race for 3-year-olds.

He also has entered the 3-year-old gelding Bright Pick in Saturday night's inaugural $100,000 West Virginia Sprint Derby, a 4 1/2-furlong race at Charles Town. Bright Pick cleared his first allowance condition two starts ago here before finishing fourth in the $99,000 Tall Ships at Presque Isle Downs last time out.

Kentucky Bear's owner, Danny Dion, will be at Woodbine on Saturday to cheer on Bear Now for Baker in the $100,000 Hill 'n' Dale, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.

Sunday, Baker will be back to saddle East End Tap for the Queen's Plate.

East End Tap is coming off a fifth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 1.

* Jennifer Morrison, Woodbine's oddsmaker, will be hosting a workout seminar here from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday. The focus will be on the Queen's Plate. Scheduled guests include Robert Landry, who won the 2004 Queen's Plate with Niigon and has a good chance to duplicate that feat on Sunday with Solitaire.