06/09/2009 12:00AM

Michael's Bad Boy rises to new level

Michael Burns
Michael's Bad Boy stayed perfect in 2009 with a front-running win in the Steady Growth.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - On Sunday, the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will honor Michael's Bad Boy as its claimer of the year for 2008 at its annual awards day.

Michael's Bad Boy certainly fits the criteria for the group's signature honor, having won 4 of the 6 starts that he made for claiming prices last year.

But Michael's Bad Boy also is a timely honoree as he has taken his game to a new level and ran his record to 3 for 3 this season with an emphatic front-running win in last Saturday's $125,000 Steady Growth.

"The horse is in real good shape right now," said Nick Gonzalez, who trains Michael's Bad Boy for his owner and breeder Joan Agro. "We'll just keep our fingers crossed that he stays sound."

Michael's Bad Boy, an Ontario-sired 6-year-old gelding, had been transferred to Gonzalez following his 2007 campaign and accompanied the trainer to Gulfstream Park.

"I had to drop him to $20,000 to get a win," said Gonzalez.

That race came in March 2008, and followed out-of-the-money finishes at the $32,000 and $25,000 levels.

"It was just one of those things," he said. "He's a big, hearty horse. After that, he just came round."

Back at Woodbine, Michael's Bad Boy scored for $25,000 at seven furlongs and in a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles before stepping into stakes company for the 2008 Steady Growth and finishing 10th.

"He won those first two races on his fitness," Gonzalez said. "By the time he ran in the Steady Growth, he was a tired horse. So we gave him a break, and he came back with a vengeance."

Returning from a seven-week absence, Michael's Bad Boy scored for $50,000 over seven furlongs of grass on July 27. Then, after finishing fourth and third when competing under the second-level allowance condition in a pair of optional claiming races, Michael's Bad Boy concluded his campaign with a romp at the $50,000 level over 6 1/2 furlongs of turf on Oct. 16.

And Michael's Bad Boy has picked up right where he left off this season, winning for the price and for the second-level condition in a pair of optional $62,500 claimers.

His first success came over seven furlongs on April 19, the second over one mile of turf on May 17.

"We know what makes him tick now," said Gonzalez, who is based at Fort Erie while his wife and assistant, Martha, oversees the outfit's day-to-day operations here. "He doesn't need a lot of workouts and hard training."

Now, with Michael's Bad Boy a newly minted stakes winner, Gonzalez might find spots more difficult to come by.

"The races for him are limited now," Gonzalez said. "I'll nominate him to the Dominion Day; that's the only thing coming up that's remotely possible for him to run in."

The 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day, which offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $200,000, will be run on a special holiday afternoon program on Wednesday, July 1.

Ice Bear points to Dominion Day

Ice Bear, who won the $170,275 Eclipse here last Saturday, is scheduled to make his next start in the Dominion Day.

An overnight stakes winner on both turf and Polytrack, Ice Bear notched his first major stakes score in the Grade 3 Eclipse over 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Ice Bear, a homebred 5-year-old gelding who races for George Strawbridge Jr.'s Augustin Stable and is trained by Mac Benson, was coming back less than two weeks after ending a good fourth in the Grade 3 Connaught Cup over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

"I think in his first race he was a shade short," Benson said. "But he'd run so well on the Poly, I thought why not have him miss the next stakes on the turf, which would probably be even tougher."

The next turf stakes for the older male division is the King Edward, a 1 1/8-mile race that offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $300,000 here June 27.

"This way, I could give him more than three weeks to come back in the Dominion Day," Benson said.

Flip for the Coin drills for Plate

Flip for the Coin, trained by Vito Armata, worked six furlongs in 1:12.80 under regular rider Emile Ramsammy here Wednesday and is headed for the Queen's Plate.

"Emile hadn't been on him in his last two works, and I really wanted him to work him today to get to know him again," Armata said.

Armata had Flip for the Coin break off behind another horse in a designed workout.

"I wanted him to chase him and run him down," Armata said. "He didn't rate in his last race.

"He had an awesome work. So far, everything is good, and we're going to the Queen's Plate."

Flip for the Coin, a homebred Ontario-sired gelding who races for Gino Molinaro, has started twice this year, finishing third in first-level restricted allowances at seven furlongs and 1o1/16 miles.

Armata and Molinaro teamed up with 82-1 shot T J's Lucky Moon to win the 2002 edition of the $1 million Queen's Plate.

Bucephalus works with blinkers

Bucephalus, who is under consideration for the Queen's Plate, drilled four furlongs in 48.20 seconds while going in company under regular rider Tyler Pizarro here Tuesday.

"I think he's been running spotty," said Kevin Attard, who trains Bucephalus for Knob Hill Stable. "I worked him with some blinkers, to see if we can get him to focus a little bit more. He worked fine."

Bucephalus has made three starts this year, all in stakes, with his latest a sixth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here May 31.

Leonnatus Anteas retired at age 5

Attard also reports that Leonnatus Anteas, a 5-year-old horse he trains for Knob Hill, has been retired.

Leonnatus Anteas was sidelined by a tendon injury after finishing fourth in Keeneland's Grade 3 Ben Ali on April 20, 2008.

"He was back in and worked a few times, but he reinjured the tendon," Attard said.

Leonnatus Anteas won the five-furlong Vandal, the Cup and Saucer over 1 1/16 miles of turf, and the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity in his only three starts as a 2-year-old, and he took home the Sovereign Award for his division.

At 4, he won the Grade 3 Durham Cup and finished second in the Grade 3 Autumn.

Overall, Leonnatus Anteas won 5 of 11 starts and added 2 seconds while banking $648,219.

No stud arrangements have been finalized.