10/04/2006 11:00PM

Noble Stella's list of options under scrutiny


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Roger Attfield was weighing the options for his talented turf mare Noble Stella in his office here at Woodbine on Thursday morning.

"There's the E.P. Taylor here, the Dowager at Keeneland, and the Breeders' Cup," noted Attfield.

The Grade 1, $2 million E.P. Taylor, over 1 1/4 miles, and the $150,000 Dowager, at 1 1/2 miles, both will be run Oct. 22.

The Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf will be held at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 and Noble Stella would have to be supplemented at a cost of $180,000.

The last word will belong to Gary Tanaka, Noble Stella's owner.

Even though Noble Stella won two races here last year, Attfield thinks she prefers a tighter turf course.

Noble Stella, a 5-year-old, won the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland, the Grade 2 New York BC at Belmont, and the Grade 3 Glen Falls at Saratoga this year.

Her last start came here in the Flaming Page, an overnight 1 1/2-mile turf race in which she romped last year. This time around, Noble Stella finished second as the odds-on choice after stalking a very slow pace.

"Her last race probably was just a miscalculated deal," said Attfield. "That usually happens when it looks like you can't get beat."

Becrux likely to await Citation

Becrux, who remained here following his Woodbine Mile victory to prepare for Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, did not make the trip and probably will be heading back to California on Tuesday.

"He's fine," said Neil Drysdale, who trains Becrux. "He was just a little dull for a few days, so we opted not to ship him. He'd had three races in a row, and we decided to give him a bit more time."

A 4-year-old gelding, Becrux won the one-mile Wickerr at Del Mar on July 29 and finished second in the Play the King here Aug. 26 prior to his Woodbine Mile triumph Sept. 17.

Becrux has been nominated to the Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic, a six-furlong turf race here Oct. 22. Drysdale, however, said Becrux probably would make his next start in the Grade 1, $400,000 Citation over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24.

Streets Ahead, who was transferred to Drysdale and remained at Woodbine following his fourth-place finish in the Summer Stakes here Sept. 17, had been a candidate for the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Saturday but now will leave for Kentucky on Tuesday.

"I'll probably run him on the grass there," said Drysdale.

A stakes winner for trainer Andrew Balding in England, Streets Ahead was making his North American debut in the Summer.

Meanwhile, Drysdale has nominated both Aubonne and Live Life to the E.P. Taylor.

"I think there's a strong possibility you'll see both of them there," Drysdale said.

Bad Hat tries to rebound

Mike DePaulo, whose probable 3-year-old Canadian male champion Shillelagh Slew has been put away for the season, will be looking for an improved effort from Bad Hat here in Saturday's $75,000 Mt. Sassafras.

Bad Hat, also expected to be among the leaders of the 3-year-old division this season, has won one race, the restricted Deputy Minister over 7 1/2 furlongs of the inner track.

But in his last start, in the Vice Regent over one mile of yielding turf, Bad Hat was eased in the stretch.

"He just didn't seem to handle that at all," said DePaulo.

The Mt. Sassafras, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward which also has attracted Queen's Plate winner Edenwold, will be Bad Hat's first try on Polytrack.

"He's trained well on it," said DePaulo, who sent out Bad Hat to work five furlongs in a bullet 59.00 seconds here last Sunday.

Verne's Baby needs more surgery

Verne's Baby, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 for his 7 1/2-length romp in the seven-furlong Overskate here Sept. 20, will not see action again this season.

"He came back with a chip in his knee," said Sid Attard, who trains Verne's Baby for owner-breeder George Bigliardi.

"We had to operate on him again. He's too fast for his legs, this horse."

Verne's Baby, a 4-year-old gelding, has earned $301,270 while winning 5 of 7 starts through three campaigns.

'Shadow' strengthens credentials

Midnight Shadow ($4.20) turned back a stretch bid from 19-1 shot Cat Dan en route to a 1 3/4-length triumph under Ray Sabourin in Wednesday evening's $126,600 Victorian Queen.

It was the third restricted stakes win for Midnight Shadow, and puts her among the front-runners for honors as champion 2-year-old filly in Canada. She earned $75,000 for the partnership of trainer Frank DiGiulio Jr., John Peri, and Anthony D'Onofrio.

Midnight Shadow dueled four wide on the lead in six-furlong sprint, and took control at the quarter pole after fractions of 22.90 and 46.65 seconds.

Cat Dan loomed boldly on the outside at the top of stretch and took a slim lead, but Midnight Shadow dug back in and prevailed in a final time of 1:13.24, which yielded a Beyer Speed Figure of 60.

Dashingalltheway rallied from well back to finish a nose behind Cat Dan in third in the nine-horse field of Ontario-sired fillies.

"She's a project and a half," said Bob Tiller, who trains Midnight Shadow. "We could only work her once in between races, because you just can't get her around the racetrack some mornings. She's a tough horse to train, and she has bad nerves.

"She was good in the paddock tonight, and when we schooled her Monday she was very good. There were some good signals there. She's got a lot of ability. If she gets her head straightened out, she'll be even better."

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink