07/12/2006 11:00PM

Moka Jumbie maturing on turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The term "moko jumbies," which refers to colorfully costumed stilt-walkers who are a staple of parades in some Caribbean countries, has its origin in voodoo's "mumbo jumbo."

On Saturday, trainer Joe Walls will be hoping that his gelding Moka Jumbie can cast a winning spell over his rivals in the $150,000 Toronto Cup.

Moka Jumbie, owned by David Kertland's Shelter Valley Farm, will face seven rivals in the Toronto Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.

In his last start, the Charlie Barley over one mile on turf here June 25, Moka Jumbie rallied to finish third, beaten a total of 4 1/2 lengths by Seaside Retreat but just a nose for second. With Seaside Retreat heading for Colonial Downs and Saturday's $1 million Virginia Derby, Moka Jumbie could be in line for his first stakes victory.

"I thought he could have been second last time, with a little bit of luck," said Walls.

"He's found a new home on the grass, and the farther the distance, the better."

Moka Jumbie, a Kentucky-bred son of Aptitude, started five times at 2, all in two-turn maiden special races on the main track, and had just a third-place finish to show for his efforts.

"I thought he was a turf horse because of his action," said Walls. "I entered him a couple of times on the grass, but the races either didn't go or came off the turf.

"He runs with his head a bit high. He doesn't like the dirt in his face."

Still, Moka Jumbie handled the main track well enough to graduate for $50,000 in his 2006 debut, going seven furlongs.

"I ran him for $50,000, just to get his maiden broke," said Walls, noting that Moka Jumbie had been ready to run and that maiden special races on the grass were not yet being offered at that time.

When he finally did get to try turf, in a first-level allowance over seven furlongs here June 8, Moka Jumbie rallied to finish third in his start before the Charlie Barley.

"I think he'll be a handy little turf horse from here on in," said Walls.

Moka Jumbie's opponents in the Toronto Cup include French Beret, the runner-up in the Charlie Barley.

French Beret, a turf specialist owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, also will be looking for his second career victory and first stakes score.

"It's a good spot for him," said Frostad. "I don't think he'll mind the mile and an eighth."

French Beret, one of five Canadian-breds in the field, could parlay a good performance in the Toronto Cup into an appearance in the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes here Aug. 6. The Breeders', a 1 1/2-mile turf race, is the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Todd Kabel, who will pilot French Beret, has won 5 of the last 6 runnings of the Toronto Cup, including 3 for Frostad and Sam-Son.

Other interesting prospects in the Toronto Cup include Ok Nothanksforaskn, a Kentucky-bred trained by Lorne Richards who is coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes in main-track stakes here, and Nergal, who is making his North American stakes debut for trainer Christophe Clement.

Nergal will race with Lasix and blinkers for the first time and will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.

On the Podium going from debut to stakes

On the Podium, never threatened winning her race debut, a 4 1/4-length score over Ontario-sired fillies at five furlongs here June 23, will be going for the gold here in Sunday's $150,000 Shady Well.

The Shady Well, a five-furlong race, attracted a field of eight Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies that also includes impressive second-out winners Midnight Shadow and Golden Wahine.

Laurie Silvera, trainer and co-owner of On the Podium, is very positive regarding his filly's chances in the Shady Well.

"She's shown that she's a talented filly from the word go," said Silvera. "I like to think she might have benefited from her first race.

"She came back and worked extremely well."

On the Podium has turned in a pair of bullet drills since here June 23 opener, breezing five furlongs in 1:00 on July 3 and three furlongs in 35.20 seconds from the gate on July 10.

Emile Ramsammy rode On the Podium in her opener but will be at Fort Erie on Sunday to partner Edenwold, the Queen's Plate winner, in the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes.

Ramsammy also picked up the mount there on Silver Highlight, who looms the horse to beat in the $75,000 Ernie Samuel Memorial Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Shane Ellis takes over here aboard On the Podium.

Patrick Husbands and Ray Sabourin both have mounts in both the Shady Well, which is scheduled as the fourth race, and in the Prince of Wales. Husbands and Sabourin are scheduled to travel by helicopter from Woodbine to Fort Erie, leaving here at approximately 3 p.m.

* Woodbine and its teletheatres will be offering separate-pool simulcast wagering on Saturday's Ohio Derby from Thistledown.