05/13/2003 11:00PM

Numerous Times returns

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Friday's $80,900 allowance prep for the May 24 Connaught Cup Stakes highlights a nine-race card and is the first turf race of the Woodbine meet.

A high-quality field was drawn for the seven-furlong race, which includes 2001 Atto Mile winner Numerous Times, who also won the Sovereign Award for Canadian turf champion that same year.

Numerous Times lost for the first time in his 2002 debut June 1, when he finished second in the allowance prep for the Nearctic Handicap. He subsequently finished fourth in the Grade 2 Nearctic, and hasn't run since running fourth in a July 18 allowance race.

Trainer Sid Attard said Numerous Times was laid up during the second half of 2002 because he had a small chip in his left ankle.

Attard said Numerous Times spent the winter at Gulfstream with his brother, trainer Tino Attard.

"He was supposed to run once down there, but he came up with a throat infection," Sid Attard said. "He's been training since December. Believe me, he's fit. I can't wait until Friday. I'm hoping it stays on the grass. I don't want to run him on the main track right now."

Patrick Husbands has the mount on Numerous Times, who is owned by Committee Stable.

Also entered were Lord Shogun, Dream Launcher, Zone Judge, Dawn Watcher, Steady Ruckus, Hard Currency, Fly Smartly, Academic, Mr. Sulu, Gone Fishin, and Sky Hunter. Speed Gun is listed as an also-eligible.

Zone Judge won the Grade 3 Play the King Handicap at seven furlongs over this course last year. He ran two sub-par races in November, and is returning from a 5 1/2-month break for Dave Dwyer, an accomplished layoff trainer.

Late-running Academic, a trouble-prone 6-year-old, is also making his first start of the year. Academic was bumped hard early in the stretch before closing to finish just a length back in third going one mile in the Nov. 3 Labeeb Stakes.

"He's doing great," trainer John Cardella said. "This is the best he's ever been."

Dream Launcher merits serious consideration if the race is moved to the main track. Owned and trained by Audre Cappuccitti, Dream Launcher was a 2002 Sovereign Award finalist for champion older horse on the strength of his impressive triumph in the Grade 3 Durham Cup Handicap.

Gone Fishin competed with mixed success at the Fair Grounds over the winter, while Fly Smartly recently finished third in a conditioned allowance race at Keeneland.