08/01/2004 11:00PM

My Vintage Port gets turn to shine


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - My Vintage Port finished third in both the Woodbine Oaks and the Bison City at Fort Erie, the first two legs of the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

But the rules of the game changed for the finale here Sunday, when the series switched to turf, and My Vintage Port upstaged her previous conquerors with a game victory under regular rider Jono Jones in the 1 1/4-mile Wonder Where.

"We thought in a turf race she could gallop along and sprint home," said Ken Parsley, who trains My Vintage Port and is her co-owner along with Rick Pettifer. "She's got a nice kick, we've always known that."

Neither Eye of the Sphynx, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks, nor Touchnow, who was the runner-up in the Oaks and turned the tables in the Bison City, had raced or worked on turf heading into the $250,000 Wonder Where.

My Vintage Port, on the other hand, had run poorly in her only previous start on the surface, which came in her first start of the year in Keeneland's one-mile Appalachian on April 14.

Both Pettifer and Parsley had been steadfast in maintaining that the Appalachian was not a true showing. And when My Vintage Port worked a smart five furlongs in 59.40 seconds on a "good" turf training course with Jones in the irons here July 25, that opinion was bolstered heading into the Wonder Where.

Parsley also had tinkered with blinkers in an attempt to get the best out of My Vintage Port, as the filly raced with blinkers for the first time in the Bison City but without them in the Wonder Where.

"I put them on and she was a little more focused last time," said Parsley, explaining that My Vintage Port had developed a habit of falling back in the middle stages of her races. "But, I didn't want her too sharp this time, for the mile and a quarter. I worked her without blinkers, and she worked super. It was an easy decision for us."

Parsley will have plenty of options for My Vintage Port's next appearance.

The Eternal Search, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies, will be run here Sept. 1; the Ontario Colleen, an open one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, Sept. 4; and the Algoma, a 1 1/16-mile yearling sales stakes for fillies and mares, Sept. 5.

"It's nice to have a handy horse who can run on turf or dirt," said Parsley.

Last year at 2, My Vintage Port won three stakes and was voted champion of her division.

Another filly in the wings

My Vintage Port, purchased for $8,500 at an open yearling sale, is the just the second horse to race for Pettifer, who owns a software company. The first, Streaking Echo, won for $6,500 at Fort Erie in her last start on July 25.

An upcoming Parsley-Pettifer project is Champagne Rosie, a 2-year-old filly who was purchased for $18,000 at last year's select yearling sale here.

Champagne Rosie, by Canyon Creek out of Rose of Lancaster, was at the track earlier this year but currently is on the farm and is scheduled to return next month.

Reason to party: Wholelottabourbon

There was a particularly large and spirited celebration in the winner's circle here Saturday after Wholelottabourbon, trained by Nick Gonzalez, became a stakes winner in the $134,000 Colin.

Wholelottabourbon, a 2-year-old gelding who was bred in Kentucky but is eligible for the Ontario-sired program, is owned by MAD Racing Stable in partnership with Martha Gonzalez, wife of the trainer.

The MAD members, who all hail from Fort Erie, are Scott Heron, Andy Passero, and Larry Tartaglia, with their nom du course an acronym of the first names of their children.

"They got into the business last year," said Nick Gonzalez, who maintains outfits here and at Fort Erie and was sending out his first Woodbine stakes winner since Prettyaspuppies won the Muskoka via a disqualification in 2000.

"We claimed a couple of horses. We had our share of bad luck, and our share of good luck."

Convincing the MAD men of the merits of a balanced stable, Gonzalez squired the group to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sale last October, and the colt who would be known as Wholelottabourbon caught his eye.

"I went to the barn and looked at him," said Gonzalez. "I picked up right away that he was by Foxtrail, and Ontario-sired."

Gonzalez also had deduced that Wholelottabourbon was not likely to fetch a whole lot of money, but discovered that Mark Casse, Gonzalez's colleague and good friend, also had his eye on the horse.

Casse agreed to take a back seat in the bidding, which opened at $5,000, and Gonzalez signed the ticket at the bargain price of $5,500.

Quite an Excuse, a filly who had won the My Dear in her first start for Casse, finished second to Wholelottabourbon in the Colin.

The next appropriate local stakes target for Wholelottabourbon would be the Swynford, a seven-furlong race here Sept. 25.

"That's quite a gap," said Gonzalez. "I don't know if I'm going to give him some time off. I might have to try and go out of town."

There are three Ontario-sired stakes for Wholelottabourbon here this fall, but the first two, the six-furlong Bull Page on Oct. 9 and seven-furlong Frost King on Oct. 27, are too close together for Gonzalez's comfort.

The other restricted Ontario-sired stakes, the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie, is set for closing day, Dec. 12.

Wholelottabourbon's connections also are high on Prettyatclosintime, a Kentucky-bred filly who was purchased at the same sale for $12,000.

"Actually, I thought more of her at one time than Wholelottabourbon," said Gonzalez. "She was farther advanced, but she bucked her shins. She's back in training now, and going really good."