11/22/2010 11:04AM

Newcomers take Woodbine stakes

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Michael Burns
Ariana D and Omar Moreno win the Bessarabian at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Ariana D and Ravalo, both of whom were making their first appearances at Woodbine, wound up in the spotlight in last weekend’s stakes features here at Woodbine Racetrack.

Ariana D, a 4-year-old who was bred in Pennsylvania by her owner, Bill Thompson Jr., was racing for Woodbine-based trainer Laurie Silvera for the first time when victorious by a neck in the $152,800 Bessarabian, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares.

Ravalo, a Kentucky-bred 6-year-old owned by Lindy Redding who was the first Canadian starter for his Maryland-based trainer, Donald Barr, scored by a head in the Grade 3, $153,500 Kennedy Road, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward.

Thompson, who has had horseS with Silvera for the past half-dozen years, had shipped Ariana D to Woodbine with an express eye upon the Bessarabian.

“She’d been running in some Pennsylvania-bred races, and then she won an allowance race at Keeneland,” said Thompson, whose first runner here with Silvera had been Ariana D’s half-brother Dumbledore. “Seven furlongs is the perfect distance for her. She’s been pointing for this race for a couple of months.”

Ariana D had been trained by Merrill Scherer south of the border and checked into Silvera’s barn about four weeks back.

“She shipped up after her win at Keeneland, and continued to do well,” said the 71-year-old Silvera, who has been training here since 1975. “She’s a beautifully temperamented filly, with good size and musculature, and she’s very sound as well.

“I watched her last race, and was very impressed. It did not surprise me one bit that she won [Sunday].”

His confidence placed Silvera in the minority as Ariana D returned $39.10 after rallying from last place in the field of 12 under Omar Moreno, who was recording his third stakes win of the meeting and will be riding with the weight allowance for the final time on Wednesday.

Ariana D, whose seven victories from 17 starts all have come on synthetic surfaces, will be heading back to Thompson’s Maple Lane Farm in North Carolina.

“She’ll enjoy a couple of months off, and we’ll plan a campaign for her for next year,” said Thompson. “I expect she’ll be back at Woodbine at some point.”

Dumbledore, a 9-year-old gelding, also is back home at Maple Lane.“We’ll try to bring him back next year,” said Thompson, who has owned Dumbledore for all but one of his 39 career starts.Trainer Steve Asmussen had claimed Dumbledore for $16,000 at Keeneland this winter, but Thompson reached right back to reacquire the homebred for $20,000 when he made his seasonal bow here May 5.Dumbledore was reunited with Silvera, for whom he had made his first 15 starts here before being sent south to trainer Andrew McKeever, and recorded a pair of second-place finishes through his final five starts of the season.

Ravalo a real road warrior

Ravalo, who has spent much of his career on the road, was venturing north of the border for the first time last Saturday.

“He’s really a tough old horse,” said Barr, 70, who was taking care of business at home and was not on hand for the Kennedy Road. “He likes to travel. When you pull the van in front of the barn he’ll start hollering and screaming – he wants to get on.”

Ravalo was competing over his 14th different racetrack and recording his 11th stakes win while boosting his career bankroll to $978,572 in the Kennedy Road.

Nine of those stakes wins have come for Barr and the other two for Cleveland Johnson, who was Ravalo’s trainer of record for his six appearances in New York.

“I’ve always tried to run him in spots where we thought he had a good chance,” said Barr. “I always felt that if I stayed away from the top five or six in the country I’d rate right underneath them.”

Barr was respectful of the level of competition in the Kennedy Road, with the likes of Fatal Bullet and Field Commission in the lineup, but couldn’t find a better alternative.

“I didn’t have a lot of choices,” said Barr. “He likes the synthetic a lot, so I kind of picked this race out. He ran one of his better races, I think. He likes the cool weather, too.”

Ravalo also benefited from a heady ride by Jeffrey Sanchez, who backed out of an early duel while racing on the rail and angled out a lane for the stretch drive.

Sanchez, who is based at Calder and was riding for Barr for the first time, now has recorded four wins in eight starts at the meeting with his other victories coming for trainer Wesley Ward.

“I liked the idea of having a rider who had been over the course,” said Barr, who credited Redding with the idea of engaging Sanchez.

Meanwhile, Ravalo now has started 11 times this season and Barr has no immediate plans for his next outing.

“He needs three or four weeks between starts,” said Barr. “He kind of tells you when he’s ready to run.”

In the longer term, Barr can envision returning with to Woodbine.

“We’ll definitely think of coming back up next year,” said Barr. “I think he handles that track well. He likes turf, too. He’s a pretty versatile performer.”

Local heroes fail to get job done

Fatal Bullet and Field Commission, the two former Canadian sprint champions in the Kennedy Road lineup, wound up third and fifth following contrasting trips.

Fatal Bullet, the even-money favorite, pressed and set the pace under Eurico Rosa da Silva but weakened slightly in the final stages to finish 1 1/4 lengths behind Ravalo.

“I thought he tried to do the impossible, on the lead and on the inside,” said Baker. “That’s the one place on the racetrack you didn’t want to be. It’s the strongest bias I’ve seen since they put the Polytrack down.”

Field Commission, the 5-2 second choice, trailed the field into the stretch under Emile Ramsammy, and was coming on late but beaten a total of two lengths.

“I think he was nine wide turning for home,” said Danny Vella, trainer and part owner of Field Commission. “Maybe it wasn’t his best race, but he still ran very well.”

Fatal Bullet, a 5-year-old gelding owned by the Bear Stable of Danny Dion, will be wintering at Palm Meadows with Baker, while the 5-year-old horse Field Commission will be on the Solara Farm of his majority owner Ed Seltzer in the Ocala area.

Both are scheduled to be back at Woodbine when the sprint stakes program begins next spring.