11/16/2005 1:00AM

New challenge for Bull Ranch


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Bull Ranch didn't waste much time establishing his credentials at Hastings, finishing second in the British Columbia Derby and then defeating older runners in the Premier's Handicap.

Now Bull Ranch will try his hand at a new venue when he faces seven rivals in Saturday's Grade 3, $164,400 Woodbine Slots Cup Handicap.

"I think he'll be competitive there," said Bob Rohman, who trains Bull Ranch for the Simichiello Stable of Bob Simms and Paul Minichiello. "He's a funny horse. When you watch him work in the morning, you wouldn't think he's a whole lot of horse."

Bull Ranch was claimed for $40,000 at Del Mar on Aug. 24 with a specific eye toward the 1 1/8-mile B.C. Derby on Sept. 24.

After breaking from post 10 in the 11-horse derby field, Bull Ranch raced close to the pace and was leading with a furlong to go, but was unable to withstand the rally of Spaghetti Mouse.

"I thought if he had a better trip, he would have won," said Rohman, who had Bull Ranch for only about 10 days before the B.C. Derby. "The jockey had to rush him out of the 10 hole."

Bull Ranch certainly made no mistakes when stretching out to 1 3/8 miles and facing older rivals in the Premier's, however, as he led throughout while widening to a 7 1/4-length victory over sloppy going. Apprentice jockey Justin Stein, the leading rider at Hastings, was aboard for the first time that day and has the call here Saturday.

"I wasn't sure if he could go the distance, and I didn't know how he'd handle the mud," Rohman said. "It was a very deep, rough-going track.

"But, he toyed with that bunch. He had such a kick at the mile and three-eighths. He just dropped his head down coming into the stretch. I couldn't believe he had that much left in the tank."

Rohman, 52, said he first held a trainer's license 20 years ago, but basically was a full-time exercise rider and worked in the jockeys' room at Hastings before setting out on his own in 2003. Rohman won 17 of 95 races that year and compiled an 8-for-60 mark in 2004.

This year, Rohman has won 14 of 77 starts for career-high purse money of $314,323, with the Premier's his biggest score to date.

Rohman, who gallops his own horses, checked into Woodbine on Tuesday morning with three Simichiello Stable runners.

Among the trio was No Sox Fox, who will compete in Friday's featured allowance prep for the Kennedy Road Stakes.

"I like him a lot," said Rohman, who sent out No Sox Fox to win 4 of 9 races and $77,842 at Hastings this year. "It's a very tough race, though."

No Sox Fox, a 3-year-old gelding, last saw action on Oct. 29, winning a second-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs under Stein, who has the mount here.

Powerful Touch set for local debut

The Woodbine Slots Cup also will mark the local debut of Powerful Touch, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Bobby Frankel.

Powerful Touch will be making his first start since last Nov. 13, when he finished sixth in the Grade 3 Stuyvesant at Aqueduct.

"I tried to enter him in the prep for this race," said Brian Lynch, who runs the show for Frankel here at Woodbine. "He's a lovely old horse. It's never easy to get them 100 percent off such a long layoff, but he's doing well."

Powerful Touch won two races when based at Saratoga with Lynch last summer and has worked solidly since arriving here early in September.

"We'll get this race into him and get him ready for Gulfstream," said Lynch, who soon will be leaving for Florida's Palm Meadows, where he will based with 38 Stronach horses. Frankel will set up shop at Gulfstream.

Besides Powerful Touch, the only members of the Lynch barn expected to see action at the waning meeting are the 2-year-old fillies Wedded Woman and Sugar Swirl.

Wedded Woman, winner of a mile-and-70-yard maiden special at first asking, was entered in a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles here Saturday. That race failed to fill but was carried over to Sunday.

Sugar Swirl has won her last two starts, including the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth here Oct. 22. She is slated to wind up her campaign in the $150,000 Ontario Lassie, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-foaled fillies here Dec. 4.

New York next venue for Nixon

Justin Nixon, the other trainer for Stronach Stable here, will stick it out until the meeting ends Dec. 11 and then head for New York.

"We'll stable at Belmont and race at Aqueduct," said Nixon, who will have 30 horses, including 25 for Stronach Stable.

In the meantime, Nixon's runners here will include High Blitz, who is entered in Friday's Kennedy Road prep, and Mark One, who is entered in the 1 1/2-mile Valedictory prep on Saturday.

The six-furlong Kennedy Road is scheduled for Dec. 10, and the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory is one of the closing-day co-features.