05/25/2005 12:00AM

Krz Ruckus in not-so-soft spot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mike DePaulo was hoping to find some class relief for the veteran Krz Ruckus when he entered the gelding for a $100,000 claiming price at Woodbine on Friday.

But the six-furlong feature, also open to nonwinners-of-four other than maiden or claiming, has come up unusually tough, with stakes winners Ministers Wild Cat and Chris's Bad Boy also in the field of six.

Krz Ruckus has won 8 stakes, 15 races, and more than $1 million in his 40-start career, but he is now 8 years old.

In his 2005 debut, in the six-furlong New Providence for Ontario-sired horses, Krz Ruckus pressed the pace and finished a game fourth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths.

Chris's Bad Boy, another 8-year-old gelding with plenty of back class, will also run for the claiming price, and his front-running style clashes with that of Krz Ruckus.

Chris's Bad Boy has won 3 stakes, 20 races, and almost $800,000 in 48 starts but has faltered in two stakes tries here this spring.

Ministers Wild Cat, a 5-year-old horse who fits the allowance condition, won the six-furlong Jacques Cartier in his only start of the season here opening day, with the favored Chris's Bad Boy 8 1/2 lengths back in fourth.

Rounding out the field will be Open Lock, My Lucky Strike, and Fantastic Day, all of whom will be making their 2005 debuts.

Sam-Son looks shut out of Oaks

Sam-Son Farm, which has sent out three of the past five winners of the Labatt Woodbine Oaks, appears to have been left high and dry for this year's June 12 running.

When the nominations for the $500,000 Oaks closed on May 1, Between the Clouds was the lone Sam-Son nominee among the 53 Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies remaining eligible - and trainer Mark Frostad said Wednesday that Between the Clouds had wrenched an ankle winning her local debut here May 7.

"She's pretty well out," Frostad said of the filly's Oaks chances. "It's too bad - she's a nice filly."

Between the Clouds, unraced at 2, finished fourth in her one-mile debut at Fair Grounds in February and came back there three weeks later to win her maiden at 1 1/16 miles.

In her only subsequent start, Between the Clouds was an emphatic winner of a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance for 3-year-olds and upward. That race was scheduled to serve as her final prep for the 1 1/8-mile Oaks.

Sam-Son and Frostad won last year's Oaks with Eye of the Sphynx and back-to-back runnings with Catch the Ring in 2000 and Dancethruthedawn in 2001.

Slew Valley out of Connaught Cup

Slew Valley, who had been pointing for a defense of his title in Sunday's Grade 3 Connaught Cup, will not be in the lineup.

While Slew Valley breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 on the main track here Wednesday, trainer Reade Baker was not happy with the exercise.

"He had a very poor gallop-out," said Baker. "That's not what we needed, so we're not going to go to the Connaught Cup."

Slew Valley, an 8-year-old Maryland-bred, won the Connaught Cup in his first start for the Baker barn here last May. He previously had been trained in the United States by Gary Sciacca.

The $150,000 Connaught, a 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and upward, is the first turf stakes of the meeting.

Slew Valley finished second in the May 15 Connaught Cup prep, which was taken off the turf and run at a mile and 70 yards. The horse had not raced on dirt since July 2000.

Honolua Storm rewards handlers

Honolua Storm always had been highly regarded by trainer Roger Attfield, who owns the 4-year-old in partnership with Bill Werner.

That faith finally was vindicated here Monday as Honolua Storm led throughout the Grade 3 Eclipse, defeating a field that included 2004 Sovereign Award champions A Bit O'Gold and Mobil.

With Attfield away in England attending his mother's funeral, assistant trainer Rachel Halden sent out Honolua Storm for the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse.

"We just lost him, mentally, last year," said Halden. "As soon as we got him down to Florida, we gelded him. We spent an awful lot of time with him this winter at Payson Park, and then at Keeneland."

Honolua Storm started once at Keeneland, finishing fifth in a third-level allowance at seven furlongs, but his connections were far from discouraged.

"It was a bad racetrack, and seven furlongs isn't his distance," said Halden. "We just needed to get a run into him. We were looking for a big race out of him Monday, and we got one."

Sauvage living up to expectations

Locally based owner Bill Diamant has been on cloud nine ever since his 4-year-old filly Sauvage won last Sunday's Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Belmont Park.

Purchased privately in France last summer, Sauvage was a disappointment in three starts here but has come to life this season.

The Sheepshead Bay was Sauvage's second win in four starts for trainer Tom Albertrani.

Diamant had purchased Vaganova from the same French source in 2003 and watched her win her maiden in her local debut at 1 1/16 miles of turf for trainer Phil Gracey.

Vaganova, a 5-year-old by Nureyev, has not started in the interim, but is back at the track with Gracey and worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 on the turf training course Wednesday.

"I was going to breed her, but we'll give her one more shot," said Diamant. "We'll take it slow and easy, and try to get her back to the races."