11/21/2008 1:00AM

Marina Ballerina opts for Bessarabian


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Sam DiPasquale nominated Marina Ballerina to both Saturday's Kennedy Road and Sunday's Bessarabian here at Woodbine.

Both stakes offer a purse of $150,000, but Marina Ballerina would have been facing males in the Grade 3, six-furlong Kennedy Road while the seven-furlong Bessarabian was for fillies and mares only.

And while he was tempted by the Kennedy Road's shorter distance, DiPasquale has elected to keep Marina Ballerina with her own gender in the Bessarabian.

"I don't think seven furlongs will be a problem," said DiPasquale. "With the cold weather, the speed might hold a little bit."

Speed is one thing that Marina Ballerina possesses in abundance. She has led through the first call in 15 of her last 18 outings. But in her last start, which came in the six-furlong Ontario Fashion here Nov. 2, Marina Ballerina was laying a half-length off the lead in third through an opening quarter of 22.80 seconds.

Marina Ballerina never got any closer before winding up fourth, beaten 2 3/4 lengths.

"As soon as I saw the opening quarter, and where she was positioned, I knew it was over," said DiPasquale. "She doesn't close; she just runs."

Eurico Rosa Da Silva will ride Marina Ballerina for the first time in the Bessarabian, and the filly could be the controlling speed in the field of 11.

Saskawea fit for Bessarabian

Saskawea has been pointing for the Bessarabian since finishing third as the 9-5 choice in the River Memories here Oct. 18.

"She's coming into this race very, very good," said Steve Attard, who trains Saskawea for owner-breeder Les Pereira's Beclawat Stable.

Saskawea's current campaign has been compromised by throat surgery and foot problems. She won the Avowal over seven-furlongs of turf in her third start of the season on Sept. 27. Coming back three weeks later in the River Memories, Saskawea was near the pace throughout but lacked her usual closing kick.

"It was a weird race," said Attard. "The pace was really slow. Maybe it was too quick back for her. She runs better fresh.

"She came out of the race really good, and the five weeks between races here will suit her perfectly."

Saskawea also won't mind the return to the Polytrack since she got her first two stakes wins on that surface here in last fall's 6 1/2-furlong Ruling Angel and the previous year's seven-furlong Fury.

Following the Bessarabian, Saskawea will head to nearby Windways Farm for the winter, rather than Florida, where she had spent her previous off-seasons.

"Hopefully, she'll be in my hands right from the start next year," said Attard.

Keino West's start much-anticipated

Attard also is looking forward to the next appearance of Keino West, a 2-year-old gelding owned by David Clancy and Susan Foreman.

Keino West, a maiden son of Kissin Kris, has started three times, sandwiching in-the-money closing efforts in Polytrack sprints around a last-place finish in the Cup and Saucer over 1 1/16 miles of yielding turf.

"I have high hopes for him," said Attard. "He just wasn't mentally ready for the Cup and Saucer. He's a real nice horse. He's going to love two turns."

Attard has nominated Keino West to the $150,000 Display, a 1 1/16-mile race here Dec. 6, but also is eyeing a two-turn maiden race.

The Display will be the penultimate stakes race of the meeting, which ends Dec. 7.

The closing-day feature, as always, will the $150,000 Valedictory, a 1 3/4-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward that is the longest stakes race of the meeting.

Next Saturday's feature will be the $125,000 Kingarvie, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds. Shut It Down and Mean Green are expected to renew their rivalry in that race.

Shut It Down scored an upset in the Frost King, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds, here in his last race Nov. 8. Mean Green, fourth as the favorite there, defeated Shut It Down in both the six-furlong Bull Page and the seven-furlong Simcoe.

Retraceable, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies here Nov. 1, heads the probable field for next Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Lassie, which also goes at 1 1/16 miles and is for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies.

Sunday deadline for qualifying for awards

Sunday is the last day horses can qualify for eligibility in this year's Sovereign Award voting, which is conducted by the Jockey Club of Canada.

The minimum requirement for 2-year-olds is two starts in Canada during the 2008 season, with a three-start minimum for all other equine categories.

Voting, which again will be available only through the Jockey Club of Canada's website, will open at 9 a.m. Eastern, on Thursday and close at noon on Dec. 1.

A total of 71 voters, drawn from members of the media, racetrack management, and heads of organizations such as the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, are eligible to vote.

The geographic breakdown includes 34 voters from Ontario, 33 from the western Canadian provinces, three from the United States, and one from Quebec.

Voters are asked to list their first three choices, in order of preference, in nine racing categories - plus apprentice jockey, jockey, trainer, owner, breeder, and broodmare. Points will be tabulated on a 4-2-1 scale.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Chartered Accountants will audit the process and will be release the names of the three finalists in all categories except horse of the year to the Jockey Club of Canada on Friday, Dec. 5.

The divisional winners, plus the three finalists and winner in the Horse of the Year category, will be announced on Dec. 12 at the 34th annual Sovereign Awards ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown Toronto.