05/12/2005 12:00AM

Mister Coop seeks first stakes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mister Coop was the first winner for trainer Danny Vella in his new role as a public trainer, scoring impressively at five furlongs here on opening day.

Now Vella will be looking to make Mister Coop a stakes winner here in Saturday's featured New Providence, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

"I certainly feel we're very competitive," said Vella, looking over the field for the New Providence. "There are a bunch of nice horses. A few could be tough, but there are no standouts."

Mister Coop, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Syd Cooper, began his career with trainer John Ross as a 3-year-old and spent his next two campaigns with trainer Malcolm Pierce.

Vella admits he didn't know quite what to expect when he sent out Mister Coop under jockey Robert Landry for the second-level allowance/optional claimer here April 16.

"I haven't trained him all that long," said Vella. "But when you look at the form, you could see he was an honest horse. Rob and I decided we didn't want to rush him, and that's what we did. The rest is history."

Vella sent out Mister Coop to breeze an easy three furlongs in 38.60 seconds over a fast main track here Thursday with Schemlin Montoute, a jockey and exercise rider, in the irons.

"That's what we did with him last time, and it worked for him," said Vella, noting that Mister Coop had worked two furlongs from the gate two days prior to his opener. "And, he's training better now than he did going into that race. He's muscled up nicely."

Chips knock Verne's Baby off Plate trail

Verne's Baby, winner of last Sunday's Queenston Stakes, has become the second prominent Queen's Plate candidate to fall by the wayside, undergoing surgery Wednesday to remove chips from a knee.

On Wednesday, trainer Dave Cotey reported that Moonshine Justice, who finished third as the favorite in the Queenston, had suffered a hairline fracture of a right hind tibia and will be out of action for three months.

On Thursday, Verne's Baby's owner and breeder, George Bigliardi, reported that his pride and joy is on the shelf.

"He'll probably be away for at least a couple of months," said Bigliardi. "It happened during the race. He and [second-place finisher] Enough Is Enough were bumping with each other, and he tried so hard to win."

Verne's Baby recorded his third win in as many outings in the seven-furlong Queenston, his longest race.

Verne's Baby, trained by Sid Attard, had won his debut at five furlongs here last Dec. 11 and doubled up April 23.

One Smooth Ride a threat in Marine

Moonshine Justice was Cotey's only Plate nominee, but the owner-trainer still has a 3-year-old who can do some damage in the open races for the division.

One Smooth Ride, a Kentucky-bred, won the Display here last fall at 1 1/16 miles and is slated to return to that distance for the $150,000 Marine here May 21.

In his seasonal debut, on April 30 here, One Smooth Ride faced older horses at 6 1/2 furlongs and showed some late run while finishing fifth.

"I was really, really happy with his race," said Cotey. "It was a distance he didn't have a chance at, and he was in with some tough older horses. He got away from the gate quite badly, but he closed well and galloped out great."

Honolua Storm may be ready to step up

Honolua Storm worked a smart seven furlongs in 1:26.60 on the main track here Thursday under jockey Gerry Olguin.

Owned by his trainer, Roger Attfield, in partnership with Bill Werner, Honolua Storm is slated to make his next appearance in the Grade 3, $150,000 Eclipse Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and upward here May 23.

Honolua Storm, a 4-year-old who finished third in the 1 1/16-mile Marine here last May, would be making his second start of the season in the Eclipse after finishing fifth at Keeneland on April 8. Attfield thinks Honolua Storm would have been second or third if he hadn't been on the inside.

"He wasn't super-happy with the track, either, but it wasn't a bad race," Attfield said.

While Honolua Storm has yet to live up to Attfield's expectations, the trainer has reason to believe that is about to change.

"I've always been very high on him," said Attfield. "We sort of lost our way a little bit. But we gelded him over the winter and it seems like he's a lot more settled."

Track offers two-furlong races for juveniles

Racing secretary Steve Lym reports that Woodbine will offer a limited number of two-furlong races for 2-year-olds, beginning in June.

"We want to try to help trainers get their horses to the races," said Lym, adding that 4 1/2-furlong and five-furlong races for 2-year-olds will continue to be offered at the same time.

The first 2-year-old race of the season was run here last Sunday, at 4 1/2 furlongs, and attracted a field of nine, including three fillies.

Pick seven pays out for first time at meet

The $1 pick seven was hit for the first time of the season Wednesday night, returning $7,197.40 on the 13th day of the meeting.

The pick seven carryover was almost $40,000 heading into the card, and another $24,000 was wagered Wednesday.

The wager covered all seven races on the card, and the sequence included two favorites, three second favorites, and one third choice, with the highest win payoff being $9.70.

A total of $8 was wagered on the winning combination.