05/17/2006 11:00PM

Malakoff changes course

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Several Queen's Plate candidates were nominated for the Grade 3, $150,000 Marine, the open 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds that will be run here at Woodbine on Saturday.

But when a field of five was entered for the Marine, the only Queen's Plate nominee in the lineup was Malakoff, who is owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Brian Lynch.

Malakoff comes into the Marine after recording his first lifetime victory in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special here April 30.

With Todd Kabel in the irons, Malakoff prompted a slow pace before drawing clear late to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths. His Beyer Speed Figure came back at 81, the best in Malakoff's four career starts.

"He's not a really big horse," said Lynch, who was based here last year for Stronach Stable as the assistant to trainer Bobby Frankel. Lynch is running the show this time around. "With the long-term goal being the Plate, we only wanted him to do as much as he had to. He accomplished that."

Lynch originally had planned to use the Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race here June 4, as Malakoff's final stepping-stone to the $1 million Queen's Plate at 1 1/4 miles on June 25.

But, on Wednesday morning, Lynch decided to change course and entered Malakoff in the Marine.

"It's a graded stakes, and it was coming up a bit light," said Lynch. "Plus, the horse came out of his last race in unbelievable order. He's doing really good, and if he runs in the Marine, that gives him a little bit more time going into the Plate."

Wedded Woman to train up to Oaks

Stronach Stable and Lynch also have a candidate for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks in Wedded Woman, who last saw action when finishing a close third in a second-level allowance at one mile on turf at Gulfstream on April 12.

"I'm going to train Wedded Woman into the Oaks," said Lynch. "She ran two good races at Gulfstream, so we've given her a bit of a freshening up with the Oaks in mind. She's not a big filly; she doesn't take a lot of training."

The Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, will be run here June 11.

Wedded Woman won her maiden at first asking over a mile and 70 yards on the dirt here last Oct. 8. On Thursday, she worked a half-mile in 49.80 seconds on a main track listed as good.

Knights Templar ill, out of Selene

Knights Templar, one of the leading candidates for Sunday's Grade 3, $250,000 Selene, an open 1 1/16-mile stakes race for 3-year-old fillies, will not be in the lineup.

A Florida-bred trained by Danny Vella, Knights Templar had emerged from her second-place finish here in the six-furlong Star Shoot with a significant amount of congestion, and the problem seemed to be lingering following her six-furlong work last Sunday.

Vella had planned to blow out Knights Templar on Thursday morning but scrapped that plan.

"She has a 102 temperature," said Vella. "She has a virus. She's done two courses of antibiotics since her last race. We thought she was over it, and it came back.

"I'm a little worried. I think she'll get over it, but she just won't be doing anything until she's right."

Knights Templar was Canada's champion 2-year-old filly last year, with her most impressive performance coming at 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 3 Mazarine, which she won by 13 1/4 lengths.

Vella, meanwhile, still has a solid Selene candidate in Like a Gem, an Ontario-bred who has been on the improve this spring.

"She's better than ever," said Vella, who is hoping the Selene will be Like a Gem's springboard to the Woodbine Oaks.

Gold Strike, Eye of the Sphynx, and Too Late Now have won the three most recent runnings of the Selene, and they all came back to repeat in the Woodbine Oaks.

Bad Hat drills for Plate Trial

Bad Hat breezed a mile in 1:40 on the main track here Thursday in preparation for the Plate Trial. Patrick Husbands was aboard for the drill and regains the mount for the Trial.

"We needed to get a nice stamina work into him," said Mike DePaulo, trainer and part-owner of Bad Hat.

Undefeated in three starts at 2, including the seven-furlong Frost King and 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie for Ontario-sired runners, Bad Hat finished fifth in his only appearance this season, the seven-furlong Queenston here May 6. Bad Hat was beaten just 1 1/2 lengths after a wide journey.

"I think that certainly cost him," said DePaulo. "The ground he lost on the turn might have made up for what he got beat. It was a good enough effort, he just didn't get paid enough."

Bad Hat wintered in Florida, and DePaulo does not believe a lack of conditioning had anything to do with his first defeat.

"I think he was plenty fit to run," said DePaulo. "Others in there said they were rushing to it, but we were right on target. Some horses might go backward; I hope we're going forward."

Shillelagh Slew, DePaulo's other Queen's Plate hopeful, had been scheduled to run in the Marine but was not entered after coming down with a virus.

* DePaulo and jockey Dino Luciani will be special guests at Jennifer Morrison's handicapping session here Saturday. The free one-hour meeting begins at 11 a.m. on the second floor of the grandstand.