11/04/2003 12:00AM

Late bloomer Willow Bunch headed to Florida


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Willow Bunch got going too late to make a serious impact in the 3-year-old Canadian-bred filly division this year, but she could turn out to be the best of her lot.

Willow Bunch, who made her first career start July 2 at Woodbine, recorded her fourth consecutive win in last Sunday's $171,300 Jammed Lovely, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Owned by Jim and Alice Sapara and trained by Josie Carroll, Willow Bunch had become a stakes winner in her prior start, capturing the La Lorgnette. Both victories came in sloppy going, with the La Lorgnette at 1 1/16 miles, but Carroll was not concerned about Sunday's cutback in distance.

"She does have a turn of foot," said Carroll. "I shortened her up; put one quick work into her."

While Willow Bunch is sharp and lightly raced, she is unlikely to find another spot here this season.

"She'll go down to Florida," said Carroll. "She's in really good order; we'll definitely think about a winter campaign."

Carroll, who has 25 stalls for the Fair Grounds meeting and another 30 at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, had additional cause to celebrate Sunday with the return to form of Estevan.

Also owned by the Saparas, Estevan won his maiden by 24 1/4 lengths at six furlongs in his second start here July 27, but then finished third after getting caught up in a speed duel in the seven-furlong Swynford.

Estevan, a Kentucky-bred, then tried 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 2 Grey and finished fifth. His win Sunday, in a first-level allowance, came at six furlongs.

"I put him back sprinting, to try to get him to rate a little bit," said Carroll. "I was happy with the way he ran. I thought he relaxed until he was asked to run."

Estevan also is heading to Florida but his destination is Ocala, where he will be turned out for a month.

Also slated for some down time in Ocala is Bachelor Blues, who won the Grade 2 Summer at one mile on turf for Carroll and owner-breeder William Schettine here Sept. 14 but then was soundly beaten in the Grey.

Bachelor Blues then traveled to Keeneland and was favored while returning to turf for the 1 1/16-mile Bourbon County, but tired to finish eighth in the field of 10.

"He's had eight starts; that's plenty for a 2-year-old," said Carroll, who will point Bachelor Blues for the $75,000 Black Gold at 7 1/2 furlongs on turf at Fair Grounds.

Dream About returns to sprinting

Carroll will be looking for her fifth stakes win of the meeting when she sends out Dream About in Sunday's $125,000 Glorious Song, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies.

Dream About, owned by the Arosa Farm of Jurgen Schemmer, was an impressive front-running winner of the Grade 2 Mazarine at 1 1/16 miles here Sept. 20.

In her next start, Dream About was pressured by eventual runner-up Silver Bird in the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth and finished almost 10 lengths back in fourth as the odds-on favorite in the field of six Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

"I'm not sure if we should have let her run on, instead of sitting beside that other filly," said Carroll. "Or, maybe she doesn't really get two turns.

"Right now, we're in the evaluation stage with her. It's just a matter of making the right decisions."

Following the Glorious Song, Dream About is scheduled to unwind at nearby Arosa Farm before shipping to Florida to prepare for her 3-year-old campaign.

Open Concert relishes mud

While few were happy when the rains came last Sunday, wiping out the final turf races of the season, the connections of Open Concert were in a sunny mood.

Open Concert had been entered in the Labeeb, a one-mile turf race which attracted a full field of 14 entrants, but when the stakes was switched to a mile and 70 yards on the sloppy main track the game was not the same.

And, the ball suddenly was squarely in the court of Open Concert, who sported a 5-for-5 record on off tracks and added to that mud mark when he led throughout as the 4-5 choice in the depleted field of six.

"We were just fortunate," said Abraham Katryan, who trains Open Concert for the Kelynack Racing Stable of Glenn Harvey. "It's very rare for a stakes to come off the turf, and he just loves the mud."

Open Concert has been a timely acquisition. He was claimed for $80,000 here Oct. 8 and has banked $120,240 in winning his first two starts for his new connections.

A 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding, Open Concert had won the 1 1/16-mile allowance prep for the Woodbine Slots Cup here Oct. 19.

Wake at Noon's possible farewell

Wake at Noon, a winner of three stakes for Katryan this season, will carry 119 pounds in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Woodbine Slots Cup Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

The Slots Cup, which offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000, could be the final career appearance for Wake at Noon, who is going to stud for his owner and breeder Bruno Schickedanz.

Wake at Noon's opponents in the Slots Cup will include Mobil, the talented 3-year-old who was scratched from the Labeeb due to the very sloppy conditions. Mobil also is slated to carry 119 pounds.