08/26/2007 11:00PM

Last Answer gets job done


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Last Answer's mediocre early-season form had trainer Mike Keogh pondering retirement for the 7-year-old gelding, so he could become a hunt horse for owner Gus Schickedanz.

But Last Answer showed renewed vigor by finishing fourth behind victorious Sky Conqueror in the July 22 Northern Dancer Stakes. He took his game to another level last Sunday by upsetting Sky Conqueror, one of North America's leading grass runners, in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes.

Last Answer finished second in the 2006 Nijinsky, one of numerous narrow losses he's endured in major Woodbine stakes. His only previous stakes success came in the ungraded Chief Bearhart in 2004.

Emile Ramsammy, who surged to the top of the Woodbine jockey standings on the weekend, had Last Answer on a long lead in the 1 1/2-mile event. Last Answer's advantage diminished in the final furlong, but he held on gamely to prevail by three-quarters of a length over a course labeled yielding. Arlington invader Cloudy's Knight edged heavily favored Sky Conqueror for the place.

"If ever a horse deserved to win a stakes, it's him," Keogh said of Last Answer. "He tried his eyeballs out last year, and kept getting beat right on the wire. He got beat a couple heads to Better Talk Now, Sky Conqueror, and Jambalaya. He's a barn favorite. When he is retired, he's going to be Gus's horse to ride around the farm."

Keogh said Last Answer will make his next start here Sept. 23 in the $300,000 Sky Classic Stakes at 1 3/8 miles, where he could face Sky Conqueror and Grade 1 Arlington Million winner Jambalaya.

Trainer says weight made difference

Sky Conqueror appeared none the worse for wear on Monday morning, according to trainer Darwin Banach.

"He came out of his race very good," said Banach. "I think weight was the biggest issue for him. I was a little concerned about it before the race, but I suppose you can't make those excuses."

Sky Conqueror was the 126-pound highweight in the Nijinsky. He conceded 11 pounds to Last Answer, and five pounds to Cloudy's Knight.

Le Cinquieme Essai targets Mile

Le Cinquieme Essai won the 2006 Play the King Stakes, a prep for the $1 million Woodbine Mile, but he never made it to the Mile itself because of a suspensory problem. He took Saturday's renewal of the seven-furlong Play the King, and is on target for the Sept. 16 Mile after exiting the race well, trainer Paul Nielsen said Sunday morning as he grazed the 8-year-old.

"He left a little food [Saturday] night, but he's in good shape," said Nielsen. "He's bright and alert. He's a wonderful horse, who just wants to do it. He wants to be a racehorse."

Le Cinquieme Essai finished a tired third when returning from an 11-month layoff in the July 21 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes. He relished the soft ground Saturday, and made all the running while establishing slow fractions under Steven Bahen.

"He had a pretty good trip and some softer fractions, so he got to finish up on end," said Nielsen. "Stevie rode him really well. He didn't move too early. That's the way he has to be ridden."

Leonnatus Anteas, the Play the King favorite, tracked the leaders until midstretch, where be began to fade after bobbling. He wound up fifth in the eight-horse field.

"He cut himself up a bit," said trainer Kevin Attard. "He'd trained awesome going into the race."

Leonnatus Anteas, last year's Canadian champion 2-year-old, was scratched from the June 24 Queen's Plate because of an infected pastern. The Play the King was his only dull performance in six starts.

Bear Holiday still on top

Bear Holiday maintained his position atop the list of leading Woodbine-based 2-year-olds with a come-from-behind victory in the 6 1/2-furlong Silver Deputy Stakes on Saturday. He got an 84 Beyer Figure in the race and is unbeaten in three starts, with earnings of $171,000.

Trainer Reade Baker has big plans for Bear Holiday. The seven-furlong Swynford Stakes here Sept. 15 is the next stop on the colt's agenda, followed by the Grade 3 Grey Breeders' Cup Oct. 8. Baker's ultimate goal for him is the Grade 1 BC Juvenile at Monmouth Oct. 27.

"He does everything right," said Baker. "He's never caused any trouble in the barn. He's never been studdish. Everything's easy - a nincompoop could train him. It looks like the farther he goes, the better."

Baker's other stable star, Grade 3 Selene Stakes winner Bear Now, breezed five-eighths in 1:00 over the training track on Saturday. She is being pointed to the Grade 2 Cotillion Handicap, a $750,000 event for 3-year-old fillies at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 22.

"She went super," said Baker.