09/29/2002 11:00PM

Late-bloomer Ballingarry on brink of stardom


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Those who saw the Canadian International may well have witnessed the birth of a star Sunday at Woodbine.

Ballingarry, trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, had been a relative bit player while such illustrious stablemates as Rock of Gibraltar, High Chaparral, and Hawk Wing took turns in the limelight this year.

But now Ballingarry can claim a place alongside those heavyweights after dominating his seven opponents for 1 1/2 miles of yielding going on the E.P. Taylor turf course. It was his first Grade 1 win of the season and boosted his bankroll by $900,000.

"He's a late-maturing 3-year-old," said jockey Mick Kinane, who was enjoying the fruits of his first visit to Woodbine. "No matter who showed up today, he would have been difficult to beat."

Assistant trainer T.J. Comerford, while admitting he had expected his horse to win, still was suitably impressed by Ballingarry's coming of age.

"He won like a very good horse," said Comerford. "We've got plenty of good horses in Ireland, but he got his chance here today."

Ballingarry had missed some time with a virus that was making the rounds of the O'Brien stable this summer but tuned up for the International with a third-place finish in the Sept. 14 Irish St. Leger, which was his first start in almost 11 weeks.

"If he hadn't run the last day, that would have given him a long gap between races," said Comerford. "That was only to give him a run."

Ballingarry will be returning to Ireland later this week but is expected back in North America sooner rather than later, with the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington now a feasible target.

Falcon Flight may target Hollywood

Falcon Flight, while no match for Ballingarry, was clearly best of the rest in his second appearance in the International.

"It was a little bit testing out there," said owner Gary Tanaka. "The winner was third in the Irish St. Leger. I think he just outstayed us."

Falcon Flight, trained by Don Burke, has returned to his California base to prepare for his next engagement.

While Falcon Flight is not Breeders' Cup eligible, Tanaka will consider the possibility of supplementing him to the Turf but mentioned the Nov. 23 Hollywood Turf Cup, the Nov. 24 Japan Cup, and the Dec. 15 Hong Kong Vase as alternatives.

"Logically, we'd go the Hollywood Turf Cup and Hong Kong Vase," said Tanaka.

Ten-year-old frisky for his age

Yavana's Pace, a 10-year-old who had raced the previous Sunday in Germany, gained many admirers with his third-place finish in the International for trainer Mark Johnston.

Zindabad, his more fancied stablemate, was less impressive but did pick up fifth money.

Both horses were on their way back to England on Monday with their immediate futures to be determined.

"There's a possibility Yavana's Pace could be going to Italy, but we might give him the rest of the year off," said Deirdre Johnston, wife of the trainer and an active member of the operation.

"Zindabad ran just a flat race, but they've both had such good seasons. We're just happy to take them home."

Good effort under the circumstances

Perfect Soul, based here with trainer Roger Attfield, prevented a complete rout by the Europeans by rallying for fourth money in the International, which was just his fifth career outing.

Attfield had expressed concern when Perfect Soul drew the outside post, and his worst fears were realized.

"We'd wanted the horse to get settled, and covered up," said Attfield. "By the time we got him shut down, we were so far out of it. It's a shame.

"But looking at the scenario, he ran a pretty good race. He's a nice horse, and there are plenty of nice races for him."

Plans for Fraulein revised

The original plan had called for Fraulein to ship to Belmont for the Oct. 14 Pebbles Handicap following her appearance in the E.P. Taylor Stakes and then remain in the U.S. to be bred.

But that's all on hold now as Fraulein, a 3-year-old filly who is based in England with trainer Edward Dunlop, has become a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf after recording what was by far her biggest career win here in Sunday's Grade 1 supporting feature for fillies and mares.

Fraulein, ridden to perfection by Kevin Darley, managed to take advantage of a bizarre pace scenario in which the first half went in the trotting-horse time of 57.93 seconds.

"The credit's all due to Kevin," said assistant trainer Peter Boothman. "I was afraid it was going to be a false-run race.

"She's got a great kick for two furlongs, and she put enough daylight between them that they couldn't get to her."

Slow pace hurt Alasha

Alasha, based in England with trainer Sir Michael Stoute and the only other 3-year-old in the Taylor's field of six, was unable to overcome the glacial pace but was impressive in her closing second-place finish.

"It was a pity it was a slow-run race," said assistant trainer Jim Scott, who accompanied Alasha on her overseas trip. "But she ran a big race, and came out of it very well."

Alasha was on her way back home Monday, on the same flight as Yavana's Pace and Zindabad.

Handle on big races declines

The all-sources handle on this year's Canadian International was $1,709,917, down from last year's record $2,021,996 when 12 horses ran.

The handle on this year's Taylor dipped to $366,538, down from $506,325 last year when 13 horses started.

Despite the big-race declines the day's overall handle was $4,838,401, not far off last year's $5,034,175.