07/06/2005 11:00PM

Moon Worship comes back quickly

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Moon Worship developed an instant following when he romped to a 6 1/2-length maiden victory over five furlongs here at Woodbine last Saturday, and the 86 Beyer Speed Figure he earned was the best for a 2-year-old in Canada this year.

So it is not a question of talent, but a question of timing as Moon Worship swings right back in Saturday's $157,500 Clarendon Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs.

"It's a little unconventional, coming back this quick," said Cliff Hopmans, who trains Moon Worship for owner D. Morgan Firestone. "But he came out of his last race almost like it was a workout; it didn't take anything out of him. After this, he will get a nice rest."

Moon Worship always was highly regarded by Hopmans, who had the colt with him in Ocala, Fla., last winter.

"He was outworking all his company, by lengths and lengths, and doing it effortlessly," said Hopmans. "I knew we had something special."

While Moon Worship did not win his first start, he certainly served notice when he closed some 15 lengths to finish fourth in a 4 1/2-furlong sprint.

"It takes him a while to get in stride, and he broke a little slow," said Hopmans. "Since he had never been in a race before, he must have thought he was out for a gallop, but then the talent kicked in. He had passed the whole field 10 strides past the wire."

After getting plenty of gate schooling, Moon Worship returned three weeks later for his second start. Although he didn't break all that alertly, Moon Worship got rolling much more quickly.

"He caught up in a few strides, and passed them effortlessly," said Hopmans.

Jim McAleney retains the mount on Moon Worship, who will break from post 4.

Vibank, winner of the five-furlong Victoria here June 19, is the other leading contender in the Clarendon's field of five.

Trained by Josie Carroll, Vibank finished second in his debut at 4 1/2 furlongs here May 8 and then returned to win by 9 1/4 lengths at that distance prior to his Victoria success.

"He came out of his last race great," said Carroll. "He has been asked to do a fair bit, but he has got a good head on his shoulders. He seems to be handling it very professionally."

Regular rider David Clark will break Vibank from post 3.

Rounding out the field are Spirit to Run, claimed for $40,000 from his seven-length debut win here June 11; Atlas Shrugs, victorious first time out but then last of five in the Victoria; and Blistering Fx, who finished sixth in his only start.

Mister Coop tests open company

Mister Coop will be moving up in class when he tries open company in Saturday's co-feature, the 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture Handicap.

But Danny Vella, who took over as the trainer of the 6-year-old gelding this spring, believes Mister Coop deserves the opportunity.

"This is a tough assignment, but I think he could be up to it," said Vella.

"The old guy just keeps getting better and better. He's looking better, and training better, every day."

Mister Coop was a winner first crack out this year in a second-level allowance over five furlongs. He came back to register his first stakes victory in the six-furlong New Providence and to just miss as the runner-up in the 1 1/16-mile Steady Growth. Both the New Providence and Steady Growth are restricted to Ontario-sired runners.

Two options for Stag Nation

Vella also is juggling his options with Stag Nation, a 3-year-old gelding who is nominated to next Sunday's Prince of Wales at Fort Erie and to Saturday's Toronto Cup Handicap here at Woodbine.

The $500,000 Prince of Wales, a 1 3/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, is the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. The Toronto Cup, at 1 1/8 miles on turf, is an open race for 3-year-olds.

Stag Nation finished fifth in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial and was placed fourth via disqualification. He then passed on the June 26 Queen's Plate and ran in the same afternoon's Charlie Barley, a one-mile turf race in which he finished a solid second.

"If the Toronto Cup were to come up tough, and the Prince of Wales were to come up light, I would have to consider going to Fort Erie," said Vella. "I will be keeping an eye on both races."

Entries for the Prince of Wales are due Wednesday. The track will hold a special post position draw at 4 p.m. that day.

A total of 13 horses were nominated for the race with the invader Wild Desert, the Queen's Plate winner, looming the horse to beat.

Others expected participate are Ablo, Granique, Out From Africa, Stephen's Gift, and Welcome Again, all of whom are based at Woodbine.