06/09/2004 11:00PM

My Vintage Port takes unusual path to Oaks


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Considering that she is Canada's reigning 2-year-old filly champion, My Vintage Port isn't getting much respect heading into Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

She figures to be no better than fifth choice in a prospective field of six, but her trainer, Ken Parsley, is far from discouraged.

"She's improved this year; there's no question," said Parsley, who also is a co-owner in partnership with Rick Pettifer.

"Her Beyer Figures may be lower than some of the others, but she only does what she has to do. She'll love the two turns, and the mile and an eighth.

"She might surprise a few people in this race; I hope she surprises them all."

My Vintage Port, who closed out her juvenile campaign with back-to-back stakes wins here over 1 1/16 miles, has taken a rather unusual route to the $500,000 Oaks, this country's premier race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Parsley, wanting to get the My Vintage Port started early, took the filly to Keeneland for the April 14 Appalachian, a one-mile turf race, and she finished last of nine.

My Vintage Port subsequently started twice here, with both races at seven furlongs under regular rider Jono Jones.

She ran a well-beaten third behind Oaks rivals Eye of the Sphynx and Silver Bird in the May 9 Fury, and then ran second to the talented Blondeexecutive in the Lady Angela, for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies May 29.

Parsley entered My Vintage Port in the 1 1/16-mile Selene on May 23, a race in which Eye of the Sphynx and Silver Bird reprised their Fury finish, but scratched his filly on race day.

"She was giving away weight, and the track was tiring," said Parsley, who had the fallback position of the Lady Angela. "I thought it would be smarter to go seven furlongs and let her gallop out strong.

"I didn't think we could beat Blondeexecutive sprinting, but she got a nice check, she galloped out terrific, and I didn't have to do much to get her ready for the big race.

"I hope we made the right decision."

Parsley also hopes that there will be a quick and contested pace in the Oaks, which, he said, would favor My Vintage Port.

Time of War takes shot in Steady Growth

Time of War may have surprised many when he became a stakes winner in last fall's Sir Barton, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-old colts and geldings.

But Alec Fehr, who trains Time of War for the Knob Hill Stable of Steve Stavro, was not exactly shocked by his colt's victory.

"I thought he had a pretty good chance," said Fehr. "There were some sprinters in there, who might not have appreciated the distance."

Time of War was making his fourth start for Fehr in the Sir Barton, after beginning his career with trainer Nick Zito at Gulfstream early last year.

"He'd run pretty consistently here," said Fehr. "His first two races here were pretty good and he bombed in his third race, when he got caught in a speed duel going a mile and a quarter."

"The Sir Barton was a good step forward; he ran the way we thought he could run."

Now, after wintering in Ontario and opening up his campaign with a second-place finish, Time of War will be looking to take another step forward on Saturday, in the $129,375 Steady Growth, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

"This race has been the target for him," said Fehr. "I gave him the little prep. I know he's ready to go, but the competition will be tough."

That "little prep" came here May 21, when Time of War ran in a 1 1/16-mile third-level optional claiming race.

The race was won by Copper Trail, a promising 3-year-old who ran down Time of War to win by three-quarters of a length and will be looking to earn a berth in the Queen's Plate when he goes in Sunday's Victoria Park Stakes.

"[Time of War] needs a horse to chase," said Fehr. "When he doesn't have a horse to chase, he loafs along a little bit.

"I hope there's enough speed in this race that we don't have to worry about inheriting the lead if he doesn't want it."

Handpainted gets ready for Matron

Handpainted breezed six furlongs in 1:14.60 on the fast main track Thursday and is headed for the $125,000 Ontario Matron Handicap next Sunday.

Patrick Husbands was aboard for the drill, which was Handpainted's first since her third-place finish as the odds-on choice in the 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie Handicap here May 16.

"It took her a little bit of time to bounce back," said Josie Carroll, who trains Handpainted for John and Glenn Sikura.

The Ontario Matron, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares, attracted 10 nominees but only Handpainted, One for Rose, Winning Chance, and Miss Santa Anita are confirmed as probable starters.

The prospect of a short field, however, does not comfort Carroll. "That last short field killed us," said Carroll, noting that Handpainted had faced two Bob Tiller-trained runners, Brass in Pocket and Winter Garden, in that field of five.

"We ended up with one in front of us and one behind us," said Carroll. "That left us a lot to do; it was a tough race for her."

Handpainted dueled with Brass in Pocket before yielding to eventual winner Winter Garden, and lost the place by a neck to longshot Spanish Decree.

* Woodbine and its partners will offer simulcast wagering on Saturday's Ohio Derby from Thistledown.