05/29/2009 11:00PM

Key test for Plate hopefuls


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Bucephalus and Keino West showed enough as 2-year-olds to be considered viable candidates for the Queen's Plate heading into their 2009 campaigns.

On Sunday, both Bucephalus and Keino West will be looking to validate that earlier promise for training cousins Kevin Attard and Steve Attard when they compete in the Plate Trial.

The 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, which is the major stepping-stone to the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here June 21, attracted a field of 10, nine of whom remain eligible for the open first-level allowance condition.

Bucephalus won the 5 1/2-furlong Clarendon in his second start here last summer before having his campaign cut short following a fifth-place finish in the Vandal.

Keino West displayed an affinity for two-turn racing when winning his maiden over 1 1/16 miles in his last of four 2008 starts here Nov. 30.

Bucephalus went south for the winter, training at Payson Park, while Keino West stayed here in Ontario.

In two outings here this season, Bucephalus has finished a distant third behind leading Plate Trial candidate El Brujo in the six-furlong Achievement and a slightly closer fourth behind that same rival in the seven-furlong Queenston.

Keino West also has started twice this year, ending last of eight in a first-level allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs and sixth of seven, one length behind Bucephalus, in the Queenston.

The preferred spot for both Bucephalus and Keino West had been a 1 1/8-mile first-level allowance race for 3-year-olds, which had been offered on four occasions dating back to last Sunday but failed to fill.

"I wanted that extra week," said Kevin Attard. "Then I could have thrown another stiff work into him before the Plate, if we'd made it to the next step."

When the allowance race was scrapped for the first time Attard switched his sights to the Plate Trial and sent out Bucephalus to breeze six furlongs in 1:16.60 under his new regular rider Tyler Pizarro here last Sunday.

"He worked okay; the track was dead at the time," said Attard. "I was happy, Tyler was happy."

Will Bucephalus will be happy when he tries two turns for the first time in the Plate Trial?

"He's been running like he may be a two-turn horse," said Attard. "He just seems to plod along. We'll know a lot more after Sunday."

Keino West entered the first-level allowance race twice and, after it failed to fill for Wednesday Steve Attard sent out Keino West to drill five furlongs in 1:00.80 under jockey Gerry Olguin.

"This way, I'll find out for sure if he belongs there in three weeks or not," said Attard.

"I think he's getting better and better; he just needs to go two turns. I'm going to put a set of blinkers on him; that might wake him up."

Costalivin comes back quickly

Costalivin, winner of a restricted first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles here May 20, is a bit of a surprise entrant in the Plate Trial.

"He did it really easy," said trainer John Ross. "With his body language and the way he is right now, I don't have any problem running him back in 11 days.

"If I wait for a conditioned race, and it doesn't fill, I'm going to be in trouble. I want to have three races under him."

The Plate Trial will be the third outing of the season for Costalivin, who had finished second in a restricted first-level allowance over seven furlongs here May 1.

Dr. Funkenstein drops after encouraging try

Sunday's card also includes a 1 1/8-mile maiden race for 3-year-olds and the field of 12 includes Queen's Plate nominees Dr. Funkenstein, Yorkville, Dance Into Heaven, Oliver's Strike, Stardust Ziggy, and Quiet Approval.

Dr. Funkenstein, trained by Catherine Day Phillips, is returning to the maiden ranks after finishing third behind a pair of American-breds in a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles here May 3.

The winner, Afleet Eagle, scored by 5 3/4 lengths and Dr. Funkenstein ended another neck behind runner-up Coffee Bar.

"He had to step up a little bit against winners, and he had to run right back," said Day Phillips, who had watched Dr. Funkenstein finished a closing second at 6 1/2 furlongs in his seasonal bow here April 18.

Dr. Funkenstein has turned in a pair of five furlong-trials since his last start, the latest coming here last Saturday.

"He had a very, very good breeze on the weekend," said Day Phillips, who sent out Dr. Funkenstein to work five furlongs in 1:01.20.

Day Phillips also trains Quiet Approval, who had ended just three-quarters of a length behind Dr. Funkenstein on April 18 but then ran sixth in a 1 1/16-maiden race won by Plate Trial contestant Eye of the Leopard.

"He's coming along nice, but I'm not sure if he's advanced enough," said Day Phillips.

Pair of Oaks prospects breeze four furlongs

Next Sunday's headliner will be the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, which is shaping up with a double-digit field.

Tasty Temptation, a leading contender off her second-place finish behind Grade 1 stakes winner Hooh Why in the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette, tuned up here Friday morning with a half-mile breeze in 48.20.

"She went an easy half," said Patrick Husbands, who rides Tasty Temptation for trainer Mark Casse. "She's good enough; she's already had five starts this year."

Milwaukee Appeal, third in the May 17 La Lorgnette for trainer Scott Fairlie, also breezed a half-mile on Friday, going in 49.80 and galloping out an additional furlong.

Trained by Scott Fairlie, Milwaukee Appeal was making her second start of the year in the La Lorgnette after winning the six-furlong Star Shoot here April 19.

The tentative Woodbine Oaks lineup also should include invaders Wynning Ride, trained by Bob Baffert in California; Miss Blakely, who is with Joe Orseno at Monmouth; and Academicienne, who has done all of her racing in France but was sold recently and should be joining trainer Kieran McLaughlin in New York this week.

* Thursday racing begins here this week.