08/23/2007 11:00PM

Nijinsky a trial run for Cloudy's Knight


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sky Conqueror looms as a formidable welcoming party for those willing to take him on in Sunday's Gradeo2, $300,000 Nijinsky here at Woodbine. But one newcomer willing to brave an appearance is Cloudy's Knight, who is shipping in from Arlington for a shot at the 1 1/2-mile turf race.

"This is a pretty good mile-and-a-half horse," said trainer Frank Kirby, who will be making his first visit to Woodbine, as will Cloudy's Knight's rider, Ramsey Zimmerman. "He runs well in this type of race. It doesn't make any difference how the race sets up - he can come from just about anywhere.

"If there's no pace, he can set a little pace. He's got options."

Cloudy's Knight, a Kentucky-bred 7-year-old gelding, did just thatoat Arlington in his last start on July 4.

With Zimmerman in the irons, Cloudy's Knight led almost every step of the way at 1 1/2 miles on soft going in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes, only to drop a nose decision to the closer Always First.

Earlier this year, Cloudy's Knight rallied from well back to finish second, beaten a half-length, in the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap going 1 1/8 miles on turf at Fair Grounds.

Kirby originally had hoped to bring Cloudy's Knight to Woodbine for the Grade 2, $700,000 Northern Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race won by Sky Conqueror on July 22.

"Timewise, we just didn't make it," said Kirby. "So, this was our next choice. The horse is training really good up to it, so we look for him to run a good race."

If Cloudy's Knight performs to Kirby's expectations, a return trip for the Canadian International could be on his agenda. A Gradeo1, $2 million race at 1 1/2 miles on turf, the Canadian International will be run Oct. 21.

"That's what I'm trying to do," said Kirby. "He's having a test to see how he likes it up there. If he did good, that's the next race we're looking at."

Royal Challenger back at favorite trip

Royal Challenger also is a horse who evidently enjoys 1 1/2 miles of turf, and he will get his third crack at that distance and surface here in the Nijinsky.

"Certainly, a mile and a half seems to be what he wants," said Brian Lynch, who trains the homebred Royal Challenger for Stronach Stable. "There are not a lot of spots to run a horse that far."

Royal Challenger tried turf for the first time in last year's 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, and prevailed by a neck.

This year, after finishing sixth in his season debut in the Grade 3 Eclipse at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack, Royal Challenger returned to his preferred turf route in the Singspiel and was second, beaten a head by Pellegrino. That race was on June 24, but Lynch is not overly concerned about the nine-week layoff.

"I thought he ran so hard that I'd give him a little break," said Lynch, who has had Royal Challenger on a steady regimen of workouts for the past six weeks. "He's training exceptionally well, and to me he looks the best he's ever looked.

"He's 4 years old now, and he's bigger and stronger. He deserves a chance to try this spot. If he was to step up, you've got a nice horse in your barn."

Plenty of stakes on horizon

There will be stakes action here Wednesday night with Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies contesting the $125,000 Eternal Search at 1 1/16 miles. You Will Love Me, already a winner of two stakes at the meeting, heads the prospective field.

Next Saturday's feature will be the $125,000 Ontario Colleen, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies. Trainer Mark Casse's turf stakes-winning pair of Quiet Action and Sprung are among those eyeing the race.

On Sunday, Ontario-sired 3-year-olds will travel one mile on turf in the $125,000 Vice Regent, where Rahy's Attorney, an impressive winner of his last two turf starts, is looming large.

The Sept. 3 Labor Day card will feature six $125,000 yearling sales stakes.

The Muskoka, for 2-year-old fillies, and the Simcoe, for 2-year-old colts and geldings, both go at seven furlongs. The Algoma, for fillies and mares, and the Elgin, for colts and geldings, are 1 1/16-mile races. The six-furlong Kenora and the Halton at one mile on the turf also are open to 3-year-olds and upward.

Wedded Woman wins Canadian prep; Arravale third

Wedded Woman, the longest shot in the five-horse field, won the $87,900 allowance prep for the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes at Woodbine on Friday.

Favored Arravale, last year's Canadian Horse of the Year, was a lackluster third in the 1 1/16-mile turf event. She finished a length behind the closing runner-up, Elle Runaway.

Wedded Woman ($26.50) came from second to prevail by a length under Todd Kabel. She completed the distance in 1:42.74 over a course labeled soft.

The $300,000 Canadian, a nine-furlong grass race for fillies and mares, will be run here Sept.o16.

* Bridled Jet smashed Woodbine's six-furlong Polytrack record while winning a $16,000 claimer in the ninth race on Thursday, covering the distance in 1:09.03. The previous record of 1:09.31 was set by Financingavailable on June 23.