08/19/2009 11:00PM

Marlang looks to get back on track


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Marlang has yet to put his best foot forward this season.

But Debbie England, who trains the homebred Marlang for Gustav Schickedanz, believes the 4-year-old colt will be ready to come to the fore in Sunday's Grade 2, $250,000 Sky Classic.

"He's really good right now," said England, who sent out Marlang to breeze five furlongs in 1:00.80 on the main track last Sunday in his final Sky Classic tune-up.

The Sky Classic, a 1 3/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up, attracted a field of eight.

Rahy's Attorney, Marchfield, and Champs Elysees, the one-two-three finishers from the Grade 2 Nijinsky over 1 1/4 miles of turf here July 26, will be the leading lights in the Sky Classic, which is the next stop on the road to the Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International over 1 1/2 miles of turf on Oct. 17.

Marlang will be looking to bull his way back into the big picture by heating up like he did here last summer, when he won the Breeders' over 1 1/2 miles of turf and then shipped to Saratoga to take the Grade 3 Saranac over 1 3/16 miles of grass.

Both those efforts came against fellow 3-year-olds, and Marlang concluded his season on a down note when he faced older rivals in the Canadian International and finished last of 10 after forcing the issue early.

England, firm in her belief that Marlang needs firm turf, cited the "good" nature of the going as a reason for her stable star's third-place finish as the favorite when he returned to action under fourth-level allowance terms in a one-mile race here June 28.

And when the going came up soft for his next scheduled appearance in the Nijinsky, Marlang was scratched.

Keeping a long-term eye on the Sky Classic, England tried Marlang on the main track in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup at 1 1/16 miles here Aug. 3.

"I wanted at least three weeks to this race, if I was going to run in here," said England, who also had nominated Marlang to the following weekend's With Approval.

Marlang performed creditably in the Seagram Cup, setting the pace before giving way grudgingly to be beaten 3 1/4 lengths as the fourth-place finisher under rider Jono Jones.

"I don't think he ran badly at all," England said. "But he's obviously better on the grass."

Richard Dos Ramos, who had committed to Palladio for the Seagram Cup, will be back aboard Marlang for the Sky Classic.

Mullins Beach takes on elders

Sunday's card also will include the $100,000 Belle Geste, a seven-furlong overnight turf stakes for Ontario-foaled fillies and mares that attracted a field of five.

Adding spice to the Belle Geste will be the presence of Mullins Beach, a 3-year-old who will be facing older rivals for the first time.

"I think it's the right surface and the right distance," said Malcolm Pierce, who trains the homebred Mullins Beach for Eugene and Laura Melnyk. "She's facing older fillies but she's been running pretty good."

Mullins Beach also was nominated to next Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Colleen, an open one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies.

"Roger's got a pretty nice filly who just beat me in the prep," Pierce said. "I might not want to hook her again."

Lady Shakespeare, trained by Roger Attfield, was recording her third straight win in the one-mile turf allowance prep for the Ontario Colleen here Aug. 7.

Play the King candidates work

Turf also will be the name of the game here next Saturday with the Grade 2 Play the King, a $200,000 race for 3-year-olds and up, in the spotlight.

The seven-furlong Play the King is the major local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile which will be run Sept. 20.

Two candidates for the Play the King worked on the main track here Thursday morning.

Jimmy Simms, trained by Attfield, breezed four furlongs in 47.60 seconds, while Fifteen Love, who runs in trainer Bobby Frankel's name but is here with Brian Lynch, went six furlongs in 1:12.40.

Jimmy Simms and Fifteen Love ran one-two last time out in an optional $80,000 claiming/classified allowance race over one mile of turf.

Griffith set to saddle first starter

Ricky Griffith, at age 43, is taking up a new racetrack profession.

Griffith, born in the Barbados, began his riding career in the Caribbean and recorded 494 winners during his 19 years in the saddle in North America before hanging up his tack in 1998.

Now, after spending more than 10 years as an assistant trainer in the powerhouse operation of Mark Casse, Griffith has struck out on his own and will have his first starter here Saturday.

Griffith will saddle Daisy Overton, a first-time starter, in a $50,000 maiden claiming race for 2-year-olds. His father, Geoffrey, is the owner and his brother, Chris, will ride.

"Mark's been very, very good to me, but the opportunity came up and I thought it was time to leave the nest, so to speak," Griffith said.

"It's a natural progression of life."

Glenn Harvey, proprietor of the Kelynack Racing Stable, will be a major Griffith client.

Woodbine jockeys head out of town

Woodbine-based jockeys will be aboard the morning-line favorites in two out-of-town races Saturday.

Robert Landry will be at Saratoga to ride Careless Jewel, who has been made the 5-2 choice for the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama.

Jim McAleney will be in Edmonton to ride Stylish Citizen, who is the 8-5 choice in the Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian Derby at 1 3/8 miles.

McAleney also has picked up the mount on the Alberta-based Tanika for the $75,000 Edmonton Distaff, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.

Kessel booking for Simon Husbands

Brian Kessel, a longtime trainer in Ontario, is back in action here as the agent for jockey Simon Husbands.

Husbands, who had been acting as his own agent, recently hooked up with the 57-year-old Kessel, and the two have been working hard at generating business both here and at Fort Erie.

Husbands, who turned 40 last month, has the mount on longshot Woodbourne for Casse in the Sky Classic.