10/26/2010 1:32PM

Mattine seeks stakes win to cap strong season


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Mike Mattine has been enjoying his best campaign since 2002, when he sent out 17 winners here, plus five at Fort Erie.

Heading into Wednesday’s card, Mattine had won 15 races at Woodbine and four at the Fort Erie meeting, which wound up Tuesday.

“It’s been a pretty good year,” said Mattine, 50. “We’ve had more horses to run.”

One thing that would add some sparkle to Mattine’s 2010 season is a stakes win, and he’ll be hoping that Shukriya can take care of that detail in Sunday’s $150,000 Ontario Fashion.

The Ontario Fashion, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares, would mark the stakes debut for Shukriya, a Kentucky-bred who competes under the Pinkston Racing colors.

“She’s really on the improve,” Mattine said. “We’ll have to take a shot, and see if we can get her some black type.”

Shukriya saw action just once at 2, stalking the pace en route to a neck win in a well-regarded maiden race at six furlongs on Nov. 14.

“She came in late, and we got her to the races late,” Mattine said. “After we ran her, we sent her to Florida for the winter.”

Shukriya returned to Woodbine in April but did not immediately pick up where she left off.

“It took her a while to get going,” said Mattine, who watched Shukriya finish no better than third in her first four appearances of the meeting. “About three starts ago, she started to come into form.”

Shukriya’s turnaround began with a second-place finish in a “B” maiden race at five furlongs here July 10, and the filly has followed up by winning her first two allowance conditions over the six-furlong Ontario Fashion distance.

“This is a tougher race,” said Mattine,” but we’ll see how she does.”

Greenapple Martini also is scheduled to make her stakes debut for Mattine in the $175,000 Maple Leaf, a 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares on Nov. 6.

A 4-year-old filly owned by Ted Burnett, Greenapple Martini had picked up a slew of minor awards before finally winning her maiden in her 13th career start here last Dec. 5.

Greenapple Martini seemed to be spinning her wheels in first-level allowance company here this year but stepped up to win at 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 11.

And in her two starts since then, both over about 1 1/8 miles of turf, Greenapple Martini finished third and then won her second allowance condition in her latest appearance Oct. 17.

“She took a liking to the turf,” Mattine said. “But she’s just maturing; she’s running really good lately. She’ll like the Maple Leaf distance.”

Stormy Rush works toward Display

Stormy Rush, one of the more promising locally based 2-year-olds to have emerged this year, breezed four furlongs in 47.60 seconds here Wednesday.

Regular rider Jono Jones was aboard Stormy Rush, who worked in company on the main track and is aiming for the $150,000 Display, a 1 1/16-mile race here Nov. 28.

Stormy Rush, a $210,000 2-year-old in training purchase in Ocala this March, wasted no time in establishing his bona fides as he romped to a 4 1/2-length win on the turf and a three-length score on the Polytrack in his first two starts at six furlongs.

Stretching out to a mile for the Grade 3 Summer here Sept. 18, Stormy Rush could have earned a guaranteed berth in the Breeder’s Cup but wound up third after a difficult trip.

In his next and most recent appearance, Stormy Rush tried 1 1/16 miles of turf in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Bourbon but weakened to finish fourth after making the lead at the stretch call.

“He’d only just got over an abscess in his foot,” trainer Roger Attfield said. “Two days before the race, it broke.

“He missed about a full week’s training so he ran pretty good, considering.”

Stormy Rush, a Kentucky-bred, races for the partnership of Bob Harvey, Al Wortzman, and Gordon Ledson.

Attfield also has candidates for the last two scheduled turf stakes of the Woodbine meeting, with Bluegrass Princess and Qeyaada set for Saturday’s River Memories and Jimmy Simms for Sunday’s Labeeb.

The River Memories, for fillies and mares, and the Labeeb both are $100,000 overnight stakes that would require fields of at least five to be carded.

Bluegrass Princess would be coming into the River Memories off a third-place in an optional $80,000 claiming/allowance turf race over one mile here Sept. 25.

“She’s probably capable of winning a stakes somewhere along the line,” Attfield said.

Qeyaada was beaten a neck when making her local debut and first start in almost six months in a 6 1/2-furlong second-level turf allowance on Oct. 11.

“I really like this filly,” Attfield said.

Jimmy Simms won last year’s Labeeb but has started just once in the interim, finishing ninth in the Grade 2 King Edward over one mile of turf here June 27 as Attfield has been stymied in his quest to find appropriate spots.

Funeral services for Wood

A funeral service was held Tuesday for Howard Wood, who had been actively involved in Ontario’s Thoroughbred racing industry for some 35 years through his association with Knob Hill Stable.

Wood, who died while hospitalized last Tuesday at age 62, had been the lawyer for Toronto’s prominent Stavro family in their business and racing interests.

Steve Stavro, who died in 2006, and his wife, Sally, bred and raced horses as Knob Hill Stable, which remains active with Sally at the helm.

Wood, effectively serving as farm and racing manager, was associated with a number of very talented runners for Knob Hill

Benburb, in 1992, and Thornfield, in 1999, were Canadian Horses of the Year who campaigned for Knob Hill when Phil England was the outfit’s private trainer.

Other Knob Hill champions during Steve Stavro’s lifetime included Apelia and Saoirse, trained by England, and Chopinina, trained by Alec Fehr.

Kevin Attard took over as the trainer for Knob Hill prior to Stavro’s death and guided Leonannatus Anteas to the 2-year-old male title in 2006 and Alezzandro to the 3-year-old male title the following year while working in tandem with Wood.