09/21/2010 1:08PM

Miss Keller's win provides a bright spot for Attfield

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Michael Burns
Miss Keller wins the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Miss Keller’s success in last Sunday’s Grade 2 Canadian Stakes was a high note on an otherwise disappointing weekend for trainer Roger Attfield.

It all began early Saturday morning when Attfield received a call from his assistant, Suzanne Lorimer, informing him that No Explaining, who had been shipped to Belmont for the Grade 1 Garden City, was not in the best of health.

“She had a head cold, and of course we had to scratch her,” said Attfield. “That was the start of a bad day.”

That afternoon, Attfield appeared to have solid shots here in two Grade 3 one-mile turf races for 2-year-olds, with Seeking Sheba going in the Natalma and Stormy Rush in the Summer.

But Seeking Sheba backed up to finish a tired seventh after chasing eventual winner New Normal through the opening half-mile, and Stormy Rush was a troubled third in the Summer.

Stormy Rush, ridden to victory by Jono Jones in his first two career starts, was forced to check in midstretch, swung outside awkwardly while losing momentum, and still finished well to be beaten 3 1/4 lengths by the New York-invader Pluck.

“It was just a mess,” said Attfield, who trains the Kentucky-bred Stormy Rush for owners Bob Harvey, Gordon Ledson, and Al Wortzman. “Jono was very upset about it.”

Pluck earned himself a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf under the Win and You’re In terms for the Summer.

Stormy Rush could still wind up in a Breeders’ Cup race, but his more immediate target is the Grade 3, $225,000 Grey, a 1 1/16-mile race on the main track here Oct. 6.

“I think he’s a very, very talented colt,” Attfield said.

Spice Route was the 7-2 third choice for Sunday’s Grade 1, $771,600 Northern Dancer, in which he was ridden by Mike Smith, but wound up 4 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Redwood in the 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up.

A 6-year-old gelding who is owned by Attfield in partnership with Dick Bonnycastle and Ralph Johnson, Spice Route was making his first start since winning the July 4 Singspiel after being scratched when the turf came up soft for the Aug. 22 Nijinsky.

“At first, I was thinking maybe that he’d been a little bit short, running with these kind of horses after the time off,” Attfield said.

“But Mike said the horse got bumped by the winner on the first turn, got pushed outside, and jumped on the bridle. He couldn’t ever get him to settle and get him in a spot to get covered up. Then, he didn’t have that kick in the lane.”

Spice Route will now be heading to the Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up here Oct. 16.

Frostad eyes Canadian International

Trainer Mark Frostad, who sent out the Kentucky-bred 6-year-old gelding Windward Islands to finish a creditable third for Sam-Son Farm in the Northern Dancer, also will be hoping to carry on to the Canadian International.

“He gave the top two horses weight and ran well,” said Frostad, noting that Windward Islands had carried 121 pounds while conceding two pounds to Redwood and four to runner-up Fifty Proof. “That makes a difference.”

Frostad, whose weekend began when New Normal earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with her front-running score for owner Robert S. Evans in the Natalma, saw it conclude on a down note when Grand Adventure finished eighth in the Woodbine Mile.

Grand Adventure, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old racing for Frostad and Sam-Son, broke from the outside post in the field of 13 and was extremely wide in the early stages when Straight Story headed for the lead but stayed way out in the middle of the track.

While Grand Adventure remained in contention and led briefly with a quarter-mile to run, he had no more to offer and wound up seven lengths behind the victorious Court Vision.

“He was rank,” said Frostad, who elected to send Grand Adventure directly to the Woodbine Mile after the colt finished third in the 1 1/8-mile King Edward over soft going here July 24.

“I had him probably too sharp. He’ll be more settled for his next race. Logically, that would be the Nearctic, at this point.”

The Grade 1, $500,000 Nearctic, a six-furlong turf race, will be run on the Oct. 16 program.

Attard pair pointing to Nearctic

The Sid Attard-trained pair of Smokey Fire and Signature Red also finished off the board in the Woodbine Mile and should be looking to regroup in the Nearctic.

Smokey Fire was just one length off the pace with a half-mile to run and held his ground into the stretch, before being outrun in the final furlong to finish 6 1/4 lengths behind the winner in sixth place.

“He wasn’t back far enough and just ran evenly,” Attard said.

Signature Red was close early but retreated to finish 12th, beaten 11 lengths.

“I think a mile is just too far for him,” Attard said.

Wilson planning November return

Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, who suffered a lacerated liver during a spill here Aug. 21, should be able to return to action in late November.

“She feels tremendous; that’s the hardest part,” said Mike Luider, Wilson’s agent.

In the meantime, Luider will be in business as the new agent for journeyman rider Real Simard, who currently is the second-leading rider at Fort Erie but whose main focus will be on Woodbine for the rest of the meeting.

Buttigieg’s pair drill for Overskate

Officeinthevalley and Gypsy Ring, both trained by Paul Buttigieg, breezed five furlongs in a black-letter 59.80 seconds here Tuesday morning in preparation for the Overskate Stakes.

The Overskate, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up, will be run on the Wednesday, Sept. 29, evening program.

“They both did it nicely,” said Buttigieg, who also is the owner and breeder of the 3-year-old gelding Officeinthevalley and the 4-year-old gelding Gypsy Ring.