11/27/2003 12:00AM

Meeting winds down with crowded fields


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Improving the average field size, which has been down about 1 percent this year, will be one of the major goals of the Woodbine Entertainment Group in 2004.

But it certainly hasn't been a problem during the last few days of this meeting, with the entry box being filled by horsemen seeking a last kick at the can.

Racing secretary Steve Lym said more than 200 horses had been entered for Friday, including those in races which were not carded. A total of 138 horses were on the overnight for the 11-race program.

Saturday's 12 races attracted 126 entrants, and Sunday's 13-race getaway program drew 142.

Judiths Wild Rush breezes impressively

Under jockey Dino Luciani, unbeaten 2-year-old Judiths Wild Rush breezed a half-mile in 46.60 seconds after the third race here Wednesday night, in preparation for the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes at Delta Downs on Dec. 5.

Judiths Wild Rush was under restraint through an opening quarter in 23.60. He galloped out five furlongs in 58.60 and was up six furlongs in 1:12.20.

"It was outstanding," said trainer Scott Fairlie. "He's done that pretty much every time he's worked."

Judiths Wild Rush, winner of the Display Stakes in his last start, is the leading candidate for the Sovereign Award as this year's champion 2-year-old.

Last year's Sovereign winners struggle

Wake at Noon, last year's sprint champion and Canadian Horse of the Year, and Chopinina, who took home filly and mare turf honors in 2002, are up for awards again this year.

One could argue that neither horse had as strong a campaign this season as they did last season, but Chopinina could dispel that notion with a strong performance in Sunday's Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park.

Even if they weren't as impressive this year, their records were certainly better than those of last year's other Sovereign Award winners, who did not distinguish themselves on the racetrack this year.

Added Edge, champion 2-year-old male and a horse of the year finalist in 2002, started just four times this season. Added Edge emerged from his seasonal bow at Gulfstream Park with a chip fracture in a knee and was away from the races for six months.

Returning to action here in July, Added Edge finished third when she faced older rivals in the 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture. He failed to move forward in his next two starts, however, and finished third in both a classified allowance and in the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby.

"It's very difficult for a horse to come back after surgery to the level they were at before," said Greg DeGannes, a veterinarian and an assistant to Added Edge's trainer, Mark Casse.

Added Edge's local days have come to an end. He is in Florida and is slated to join trainer Ralph Nicks at Oaklawn this winter.

Team Valor, which owns Added Edge in partnership with Robert Wilson, recently decided to consolidate its widespread racing operation and recruited Nicks as their private trainer.

Brusque, Canada's champion 2-year-old filly last year, and Lady Shari, the Sovereign Award-winning 3-year-old filly, both failed to win a race this year and were sold in Kentucky this fall.

Purchased privately following her 2-year-old campaign by Lael Stable, Brusque earned $4,500 in three starts in New York and fetched $220,000 at Keeneland in November.

Lady Shari also failed to hit the board in three starts this season and was sold privately by her trainer and co-owner, Dave Cotey. She then appeared in Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's October auction, where she sold for $300,000.

Le Cinquieme Essai, a champion 3-year-old colt last year, won one of his five starts this year, the Puss N Boots at Fort Erie.

Small Promises, Canada's reigning champion older filly or mare, has failed to find the handle in eight starts this year, but did finish second once and third on five occasions.

Portcullis, who captured the male turf horse award in his 3-year-old campaign, recorded a classified allowance win, but didn't hit the top three in his other five starts this year.

Identifier to retire Sunday

Sunday will mark the last day on the job for Adolf Dittfach, who is retiring after serving as Woodbine's horse identifier since 1990.

Dittfach, 64, had worked 26 years as an agent for his older brother, jockey Hugo Dittfach, who retired following the 1989 campaign and took up a training career.

Adolf Dittfach will spend the holiday season with family in Calgary and then will winter in Arizona. He will then return to Ontario, where he hopes to reestablish himself in the jockey agent business.

Starting next spring, the horse identifier here will be Fenton Platts, who has been training horses for the past five years.

Platts, age 42, also worked as an agent for his brother, former rider Robin Platts, who now is an exercise rider here.

Fenton Platts had a brief fling with race-riding before being derailed by weight problems. He is married to jockey Lisa Platts.

Group formed to help racing industry

Representatives of the Jockey's Benefit Association of Canada, the Ontario Harness Horse Association, and the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario have agreed to form a common front to work for the betterment of the Ontario horseracing industry.

A delegation from the three associations spoke with federal and provincial government representatives in Ottawa this week.

The group met with Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and held an encouraging discussion of the issues and challenges facing the racing industry.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink