08/15/2007 11:00PM

London Snow ready to fire in Victoriana


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer John Charalambous had a lucrative Woodbine meeting in 2006, with his trio of London Snow, Soul Rebel, and Summer Girlfriend leading the way.

London Snow, owned by Kirk Bradden Racing Stable, won four races, including a pair of stakes, and earned $250,980.

Soul Rebel, owned by Richard Day's Kingview Farm, won three allowance races and was stakes-placed while banking $139,790.

Summer Girlfriend, owned by Allen Abbot's Equilease Racing Stable, won the Star Shoot and $108,517.

Charalambous's big guns have been silenced for the most part this year, with a victory by Soul Rebel the only win from seven combined starts for the threesome.

That could change Saturday as London Snow appears to be sitting on a big race coming into the $125,000 Victoriana, a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

"From the beginning of the year we mapped out a few races for her if everything went well," said Charalambous. "This was a key race."

In fact, things have not gone particularly well at all this year for London Snow, and the fact that she has made the Victoriana is an accomplishment in itself.

London Snow, who won the Lady Angela and La Prevoyante and placed in the Eternal Search and Jammed Lovely last year, wintered at Windhaven and made her seasonal bow here April 27.

Sent off as the 9-5 favorite while competing under third-level allowance terms at 6 1/2 furlongs, London Snow finished a lackluster fifth under regular rider Steven Bahen.

"I don't know what happened," said Charlambous. "She wasn't right coming out of the race, so I sent her back to Windhaven."

After returning to the track in June, London Snow was working well when she was entered in a third-level optional claimer on July 20. Charalambous scratched London Snow when that race was taken off the turf, but found another spot a week later in an open one-mile turf allowance.

That race, billed as the Victoriana prep but open to all comers, was won by Vestrey Lady, a Kentucky-bred who came back to capture the Grade 3 Royal North in her next start here on Aug. 6. London Snow finished a solid second.

"That worked out good," said Charalambous. "She ran a great race."

That race, however, was followed by another setback.

"She was very sick the next morning," said Charalambous. "She had a viral infection. We treated it aggressively, and fortunately it cleared up the next day."

London Snow was given a week off and, judging by her workout here on Tuesday, has fully recovered.

"She worked well," said Charalambous, who sent out London Snow to breeze four furlongs in a bullet 48.60 seconds on the training track.

Breeze knocked out Soul Rebel

Soul Rebel, an Ontario-sired 5-year-old gelding who has won 6 of 9 starts, began his season with a win in an open allowance race at a mile and 70 yards here June 9.

But Soul Rebel then finished a distant third as the odds-on choice in the 1 1/16-mile Steady Growth on June 9, and was scratched after being entered in the 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup on July 29.

"I'd breezed him, looking to run him there," said Charalambous. "But it took him quite a while to come out of that breeze right. I just started him back recently."

Summer Girlfriend on vacation

Summer Girlfriend, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old filly, finished third when opening up her 2007 campaign in the Grade 3 Whimsical here June 13 but was unplaced in two subsequent outings.

"She had a few little issues, so we gave her the summer off," said Charalambous, who sent Summer Girlfriend to the nearby farm of trainer Paul Buttigieg.

"She'll probably ship back in soon," said Charalambous. "We'll try to get a few races into her by the end of the year if it works out."

Like a Gem tries to get back on track

Like a Gem, who also has had a start-and-stop campaign, will be looking to begin making up for lost time here in Sunday's $100,000 Belle Mahone, a 1 1/16-mile overnight stakes for fillies and mares.

"She's doing great," said trainer Danny Vella, who sent out Like a Gem to drill six furlongs in 1:15 here last Sunday. "She worked super the other day. She seems to be in great order."

A 4-year-old owned and bred by Garland Williamson, Like a Gem won 2 of 9 starts here last year, including the $250,000 Wonder Where at 1 1/4 miles on turf, before being put away in mid-October.

"We thought she'd done enough," said Vella. Like a Gem had also placed in two other stakes while earning $245,348.

Like a Gem wintered on Williamson's nearby farm and was late coming into the track this spring.

Returning in the 1 1/16-mile Hill 'n' Dale on June 16, Like a Gem was no match for the talented and racing-fit 3-year-old filly Bear Now, but was clearly best of the balance in the field of seven. That race, however, still stands as Like a Gem's latest.

"She wasn't sore; she was just tight for a while," said Vella. "I think it's due to this racetrack; it jars some of these horses.

"She never actually missed any training other than the odd day, when her muscles were too tight, for two or three weeks. She's been doing a lot of strong gallops, and had two good works. She's ready."