04/17/2008 11:00PM

Marina Ballerina only has one gear


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It has been 13 years since trainer Sam DiPasquale won a stakes race, with the talented Holly Regent taking the Ontario Matron, Belle Mahone, and Algoma here at Woodbine in 1995.

While that drought seems less dramatic considering that DiPasquale has had just 15 stakes starters in the intervening years, it still would make success all the sweeter if the trainer could click with Marina Ballerina in Sunday's $150,000 Whimsical.

DiPasquale will be saddling Marina Ballerina for the first time in the six-furlong Whimsical. She hasn't run since Feb. 2.

"It would have been nice to have a race into her here before the stake, but she's doing well so we're going to go for it," he said.

Marina Ballerina, a 4-year-old homebred, is owned by the Florida-based Robert Pastor, who also has the good filly Star Operator here with DiPasquale.

After beginning her career here with trainer Daniel Harvey in the fall of 2006, Marina Ballerina went south. Last year, the speedy Marina Ballerina raced at Gulfstream, Churchill, Monmouth, Turfway, and Calder, winning 4 of 10 starts and finishing second three times while banking $130,509.

This year, Marina Ballerina has raced twice, ending a distant fifth in the Grade 3 First Lady at Gulfstream before winning the seven-furlong Manatee at Tampa Bay Downs.

"She's run well on dirt, turf, Polytrack - the only thing she didn't handle was slop," said DiPasquale. "It looks like she's just going to explode out of the gate and try to go wire to wire."

Eventually, DiPasquale will try to get Marina Ballerina to harness some of that speed, with an eye toward some graded stakes opportunities on the turf course.

"I think she'll handle the turf here, going from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth," said DiPasquale.

Star Operator, also a 4-year-old homebred, began her career here with trainer Sarah O'Callaghan in 2006, winning her debut but then going unplaced in three subsequent outings.

Last year, with DiPasquale, Star Operator won 2 of 9 starts, including a second-level allowance in her final start of the season, and $114,572.

After wintering on her owner's farm, Star Operator picked up where she left off with a rallying victory under jockey Justin Stein in a third-level allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs here last Saturday.

"She was in good order going into the race," said DiPasquale. "Our only concern was about the 5 1/2 furlongs, that she wouldn't get up in time. Justin rode an excellent race. He didn't panic."

Star Operator also was nominated to the Whimsical but, particularly with Marina Ballerina in the wings, DiPasquale was not tempted to swing her right back.

DiPasquale loses 10-year-old

The DiPasquale barn had bittersweet success here April 11 with Crease Infraction.

Crease Infraction, a 10-year-old gelding, won at the $20,000 level but was claimed by trainer Anthony Adamo.

"It was a great victory but it was a sad day, too," said DiPasquale. "Everybody in the barn loved him. He was such a gentle horse."

Crease Infraction was transferred to DiPasquale last summer and recorded two wins plus a third-place finish in the Kenora in six starts through the balance of the meeting.

New prep for Marine scheduled

This Friday's $100,000 Wando, an open 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds, is a new addition to the Woodbine calendar.

An overnight stakes, the Wando will need at least five entrants to be carded and is intended as a prep for the Grade 3, $150,000 Marine, another open 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds here May 17.

"It's a new incentive," said Steve Lym, Woodbine's racing secretary and a director of racing.

"A lot of stakes preps didn't fill last year, so we're trying to replace some of them with overnight stakes in an effort to get them to fill."

The Wando also offers an alternative for Canadian-breds to get to the June 22 Queen's Plate. The first two stakes for 3-year-olds here were run at six furlongs and the next traditional Queen's Plate stepping-stone, the May 3 Queenston, will be run over seven furlongs.

"This gives horses a chance to go two turns before the Marine," said Lym.

"And, a lot of horses on the trail to the Plate that are winter-raced, if they've gone a mile and an eighth or a mile and a sixteenth, their trainers don't want to back up again."

Discreet Commander looks for a route

The Wando also would fit nicely into the plans of trainer Arthur Silvera, giving him another stakes option for his Kentucky-bred Discreet Commander.

"There aren't that many spots for him to go in here," said Silvera. "There was the Woodstock, but six furlongs is not his game."

After recording two second-place finishes from his first four starts, two of which came for claiming prices, Discreet Commander came into his own when stretched out around two turns.

Discreet Commander's maiden win came at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 2 and three weeks later he doubled up to the tune of $85.60 in the 1 1/16-mile Display under rider Constant Montpellier.

Following the Display, Discreet Commander was given a few months off before beginning to gear up at Classic Mile Park training center in Ocala, Fla.

"He's doing well," said Silvera, who sent out Discreet Commander to breeze six furlongs in a bullet 1:12 with Montpellier in the irons here Friday morning.

"He's pretty tight right now. How good he is, I don't know."

Deputiformer records a bullet

Deputiformer and Giquere, a pair of Queen's Plate hopefuls trained by Mike DePaulo who are among 23 nominees to the Wando, worked five furlongs on Friday morning.

Jerry Baird was aboard Deputiformer, who was the fastest of 47 workers at the distance with a 58.20-second clocking. Jono Jones partnered Giquere through his 1:01.40 move.

Leonnatus Anteas set for Ben Ali

Jones will be at Keeneland on Sunday to ride Leonnatus Anteas in the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali.

Canada's champion 2-year-old male in 2006 and runner-up to stablemate Alezzandro in the Sovereign Award voting for his division last year, Leonnatus Anteas will be making his second start of the season after finishing fourth of five in the 1o3/16-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 1.

"He seems to be really thriving since getting back on Polytrack," said Kevin Attard, who trains Leonnatus Anteas for Knob Hill Stable.