09/24/2002 11:00PM

O'Brien debuts with Ballingarry


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Aidan O' Brien, who is blessed with a surfeit of top-class runners, has never started a horse at Woodbine. But that will change Sunday when Ballingarry, one of six O'Brien trainees nominated to the Canadian International, gets a chance to emerge from the shadow of his more illustrious stablemates - such as Rock of Gibraltar, High Chaparral, and Hawk Wing - in the Grade 1, $1.5 million feature.

It's not that Ballingarry, an Irish-bred 3-year-old by Sadler's Wells, is any slouch. Racing for Susan Magnier, Ballingarry won the Group 1 Grand Criterium de Saint Cloud over 1 1/4 miles in heavy going at Longchamp last November and comes into the International off three consecutive Group 1 placings.

"He's well and ready," said assistant trainer T.J. Comerford, who arrived from London on Tuesday evening with Ballingarry. "He's in good order; no problems at all."

Ballingarry has run well in two attempts at the Canadian International's 1 1/2-mile distance, finishing second in the Group 1 Derby Italiano at Capannelle on May 26 and third in his next appearance in the Grade 1 Irish Derby at the Curragh on June 30.

The colt then was away for almost 2 1/2 months before tightening up with a third-place finish, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by top-drawer stayers Vinnie Roe and Pugin, in the 1 3/4-mile Irish St. Leger at the Curragh Sept. 14.

Comerford believes Ballingarry is equipped to deal with whatever turf condition or pace scenario prevails here Sunday.

"He acts well on any ground," he said. "And in many of his races he's been ridden differently. You can drop him in or ride him handy. He's a very relaxed horse; it doesn't matter.

Mick Kinane, who also will be making his Woodbine debut, gets the call Sunday.

Portcullis works nice and easy

Portcullis, one of two Sam-Son Farm candidates for the International, took some leisurely exercise on the turf training course here Wednesday.

Going on his own, with regular rider Slade Callaghan in the irons, Portcullis was clocked in 1:05 over five furlongs of good going with the dogs well out.

"It was just a two-minute lick, basically," said trainer Mark Frostad. "He's all set."

Portcullis, a 3-year-old, will be facing older rivals for the first time when he seeks his fourth straight turf stakes score here in the International.

His stablemate Full of Wonder will be looking for his second consecutive Grade 1 win over 1 1/2 miles of turf after capturing the Niagara Breeders' Cup here Aug. 31. Todd Kabel again will be in the irons.

Perfect Soul "striding nicely"

Perfect Soul, the other local International hopeful, had his final tune-up on an E.P. Taylor turf course rated good Wednesday, going five furlongs around the dogs in 1:01.20 under exercise rider Paul O' Sullivan.

"He was striding nicely," said Roger Attfield, who trains Perfect Soul for owner Charles Fipke. "He couldn't be traveling better."

Perfect Soul suffered his first defeat in four starts when finishing second in the Niagara, his stakes debut. Robert Landry retains the mount.

Falcon Flight arrives

Falcon Flight, who finished in a dead heat for sixth here in last year's International but was moved up to fourth after third-place Zindabad and fourth-place Daliapour were disqualified, arrived here at about 3 a.m. Wednesday for his return engagement.

Groom Rafael Davila accompanied Falcon Flight, who was flown from Los Angeles to Lexington and vanned from there to Toronto.

Falcon Flight, owned by Gary Tanaka and trained by Don Burke, is coming off a troubled fifth-place finish, beaten just a half-length, in the Grade 1 Arlington Million over 1 1/4 miles of turf Aug. 17.

Patrick Valenzuela will take over the reins Sunday.

Inish Glora's big move up

Inish Glora will have her work cut out for her when she moves into Grade 1 company for the $750,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes, the 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares that is the supporting feature here Sunday.

But Kathy Bremner, who trains Inish Glora at Hastings Park for owner Robert Costigan, is fully prepared to see the filly play a longshot's role here under her regular rider, Fernando Serna.

"She looks like an outsider but I figured on that," said Bremner. "She's doing very well. She's coming to the race exactly as I'd want her to be coming to a race that's this huge."

Inish Glora arrived Wednesday morning, vanning from Vancouver to Seattle and then flying to Dayton and on to Toronto, a process that took some 20 hours.

Still, Bremner is much happier with the travel arrangements than she was last year, when Inish Glora came east to finish fourth in the Wonder Where over 1 1/4 miles on turf and stayed on to run third in a seven-furlong turf allowance.

"She came into [the Wonder Where] a work short," said Bremner. "This year, it's come together much better.

"I'm really confident in her. She loved the turf and she loved the distance last year. I'd be tickled to death if I could get her Grade 1 stakes placed."

While Inish Glora raced on the lead in the Wonder Where, Bremner hopes the filly will be "coming from out of it" this time around.

"The only race she missed a check in this year, she broke way too sharply and was way too close to the pace," said Bremner, with reference to Inish Glora's sixth-place finish in the Boeing Handicap at Emerald Downs on July 21.

"That didn't suit her. But she ran a real good race since then."

That effort came in Inish Glora's last outing, the Aug. 25 Emerald Breeders' Cup Distaff over one mile.

"She came from off it," said Bremner, "and the race was too short for us. I was pretty impressed."

Inish Glora was accompanied on her journey by Raglan Road, a 2-year-old who is scheduled to run in conditioned allowance races.

While Bremner will be heading home after the Taylor, Inish Glora and Raglan Road are to remain here with trainer Mac Benson.

Wake at Noon works

Wake at Noon, who will be favored in Sunday's Highlander Handicap, worked three furlongs a black-letter 34.80 seconds on the fast main track under regular rider Emile Ramsammy here Wednesday.

"He went nice and easy," said Abraham Katryan, who trains Wake at Noon for owner Bruno Schickedanz. "It was just a little tightener - he was getting a little sharp on me."

The Highlander, which has Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000, is a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward.