05/20/2005 12:00AM

Lynch serving as Frankel's stand-in


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It took a while but the Stronach Stable division trained by Bobby Frankel got off the duck at Woodbine on Thursday when Navajo Princess won the fourth race.

Frankel, who heeded Frank Stronach's request to add a division here this year, was assigned 25 stalls while Justin Nixon, the other ontrack Stronach trainer, got 15.

But, due to the demands of the Triple Crown and other business, Frankel has yet to actually visit Woodbine this year.

That leaves assistant trainer Brian Lynch in charge of the day-to-day operation here, and Lynch suffered through a frustrating few weeks, which included two favorites scratched at the starting gate, before Navajo Princess broke the ice in the barn's seventh start.

Lynch, 40, grew up in the Thoroughbred racing industry in Australia but moved to California in 1986 and competed as a rider on the professional rodeo circuit for five years.

In 1991, Lynch started training horses in California and was still going strong when approached by Frankel last May.

"Bobby asked me if I would take some young horses to Saratoga," said Lynch, who accepted the assignment and was with the Frankel contingent at Palm Meadows last winter when the Woodbine gig was suggested.

"Bobby asked me if I would come up here and oversee this string," said Lynch, who has been here for about a month.

Lynch admits he is still getting to know many of the horses and is conservative in his assessment of the Stronach prospects.

"We have a lot of 2-year-olds, and young horses eligible for a lot of conditions," said Lynch. "I hope we can find a few stakes winners among them."

Included in that category is Welcome Again, a maiden who arrived here from California recently and is a candidate for the Queen's Plate.

Welcome Again, a gelding by Awesome Again, has raced five times and finished second on two occasions, the latest over 1 1/8 miles of turf on April 17. In his only main-track start, on Feb. 12, Welcome Again was fourth in an off-the-turf race run over 1 1/8 miles on a track labeled "wet-fast."

Mark One tries to fire fresh

Lynch plans to send out his first stakes starter here Monday with Mark One slated for the Grade 3, $150,000 Eclipse Handicap.

Mark One, a 6-year-old gelding, won the Eclipse last year and was a Sovereign Award finalist when trained by Danny Vella. Monday's race will be his first of this season. He won the mile and 70-yard Eclipse prep in his first start of 2004.

"He's an enjoyable old class horse," said Lynch. "I'm looking forward to running him."

Daddy Cool comes off the bench

Stronach Stable should have a second Eclipse representative in Daddy Cool, who also will be making his first start of the year.

Daddy Cool, a 7-year-old gelding, is trained by Sean Smullen, who is based at Stronach's nearby Adena Springs North.

"He's doing really well," said Smullen, who watched Daddy Cool move up from the $32,000 claiming ranks to close out his last campaign with a romp in the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory Handicap.

Smullen had entered Daddy Cool in the Eclipse prep and in a recent starter allowance, both of which failed to fill.

Late nominees to Queen's Plate

A total of 53 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds remain eligible for the $1 million Queen's Plate, which will be run over 1 1/4 miles here June 26.

Included in that number are Autumn Snow, Gold Strike, King of Jazz, Slice of Glory, and Three in the Bag, whose connections put up supplementary payments of $15,000 by last Sunday's deadline.

Gold Strike, trained by Reade Baker, has been entered in Sunday's Grade 3 Selene, an open 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.

The Selene will serve as Gold Strike's prep for the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred fillies on June 12. Gold Strike also was supplemented to the Oaks, at a cost of $5,000.

Three in the Bag, based in New York with trainer Stanley Hough, is coming off a second-place finish in a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles at Belmont. He could appear in the $150,000 Plate Trial, a 1 1/8- mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here June 5.

King of Jazz is based in Kentucky with Carl Nafzger. He won his maiden over 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland last time out.

Autumn Snow, trained by Mac Benson, and Slice of Glory, conditioned by John Cirillo, both are based here and finished second and third, respectively in a seven-furlong maiden race last Saturday.

Higher World may try grass

Higher World, winner of the Grade 2 Mazarine over 1 1/16 miles and a finalist in the Sovereign Award voting for her division last year, was nominated to the Selene but will not be participating.

"We just want to get her on the right track," said Mark Casse, who trains Higher World for Seasoft Stable. "She just hasn't been as happy as I would like."

Higher World, a Kentucky-bred, went from the Mazarine to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star, where she finished last after hooking up early with Sis City and bleeding badly.

After getting some time off in Florida, Higher World returned March 21 in the Ocala Breeders' Sales Sprint, where she finished a closing second over six furlongs.

In her only subsequent appearance, Higher World failed to threaten when running sixth here in the Star Shoot over six furlongs of sloppy going.

"I'm anxious to breeze her on the grass," said Casse. "I'm going to explore that possibility."