06/14/2004 11:00PM

Organ Grinder even surprised trainer


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - While Eye of the Sphynx was in the spotlight following Sunday's Labatt Woodbine Oaks, the most impressive performer on the card actually competed in the day's preceding race.

That's when Organ Grinder won the 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park Stakes, his six-length victory good for a lofty Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

Prior to the Victoria Park, trainer Sid Attard had suggested that Organ Grinder probably had needed his second race of the season, where he finished second to the winter-conditioned Judiths Wild Rush in the 1 1/16-mile Marine here May 23.

"I thought he had a shot to win Sunday, and he'd run good," said Attard, who trains Organ Grinder for S and B Stable. "But, he surprised us. He just exploded."

Organ Grinder is Kentucky-bred, which should be a relief to connections of the candidates for the June 27 Queen's Plate. Attard, however, does not dream of what might have been had Organ Grinder been Canadian-bred.

"We're just lucky to have him," he said.

Of more practical import is whether Organ Grinder may have to take his show on the road. The next open stakes listed on the schedule is the $150,000 Toronto Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race here July 17. Then there would be a long gap to the $150,000 Ontario Derby, on Oct. 10.

Plate on menu for Copper Trail

The Victoria Park also was a success for runner-up Copper Trail, whose effort will propel him toward the $1 million, 1 1/4-mile Plate.

While no match for the winner, Copper Trail was 2 3/4 lengths clear of show finisher To Be Suave and nine lengths ahead of fourth-place Burst of Fire, the next Canadian-bred to finish.

Copper Trail earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93, which was better than Eye of the Sphynx's 89 for the Oaks and compares favorably with A Bit O'Gold's 96 for his impressive win in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial one week earlier.

"He ran well," said Jim Day, who trains Copper Trail for the Stolar Stable of Mario Stolar. "That was moderately predictable for where he's at in his program. I just didn't expect such a bear to be in there."

Copper Trail had undergone minor surgery after winding up his 2-year-old campaign with a third-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity here Nov. 1.

Being significantly behind schedule, Copper Trail was not nominated to the Plate until deadline day, May 15, when he was supplemented at a cost of $15,000.

The following day, Copper Trail made his seasonal debut a winning one in a third-level allowance/optional claiming race for 3-year-olds and upward.

But that was his only tune-up for the Victoria Park. And, perhaps paradoxically, the fact that Copper Trail had a clear trip in his seasonal debut was of some concern to his trainer.

"His first race back he ran on the outside," said Day. "I was concerned on how he'd handle a tight trip. But on Sunday he got all the experience he needs, back there between horses. He handled all the dirt and debris. And, the winner gave us a pretty good nudge around the turn; that didn't help us."

Copper Trail's rider, Na Somsanith, claimed foul against Organ Grinder, but the stewards saw no reason to alter the order of finish.

"We could have been a couple of lengths closer," said Day, "but we wouldn't have beat the boss horse."

'No excuse' for His Smoothness

Day tried a different tack Sunday with his other Plate hopeful, His Smoothness, running the colt in a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds and upward, but he said the experience hadn't been particularly enlightening. His Smoothness finished sixth.

"He wasn't beaten far, but he never threatened," said Day. "I can't believe he's run as poor as he has in his last two races."

In his seasonal debut, His Smoothness finished an encouraging second, but then came with a lackluster fifth in the Plate Trial before his latest allowance try.

"He's been disastrously disappointing, with no excuse," Day said. "He's gone into his last two races as well as he possibly could have. I'm in a quandary with him."

Vella pleased with Night Sky's work

Night Sky, a Queen's Plate candidate owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Danny Vella, breezed six furlongs on the fast main track Tuesday in 1:15.60 under exercise rider Mickey Walls.

"He worked tremendously," said Vella, who clocked Night Sky's final quarter in 24 seconds. "It was a perfect work; not too strenuous."

Two other Stronach/Vella runners tuned up for Sunday stakes engagements with five-furlong breezes on the main track.

Winning Chance, who went in 1:00.60, is headed for the $125,000 Ontario Matron, a 1 1/16-mile handicap for fillies and mares.

"She's sensational," said Vella. "She's put some weight on; she's never been better."

Alpha Heat, timed in 1:01, is slated to make her seasonal debut in the $100,000 Zadracarta, a six-furlong turf race for fillies and mares, which she won last year when trained by Reade Baker.

"She's doing great," said Vella. "I'm looking for a big effort."

The Zadracarta is not part of the guaranteed stakes schedule, and Woodbine has the option of scrapping the race if fewer than six horses are entered.