11/17/2005 12:00AM

Organ Grinder returns in rough spot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Organ Grinder was a going concern last season, winning 4 of 8 starts and $414,813 en route to being a Sovereign Award finalist in the 3-year-old male balloting.

But this year has been unkind to Organ Grinder, who will be making his first start of 2005 in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Woodbine Slots Cup.

Organ Grinder, owned by Sue and Bill McClellan and trained by Sid Attard, has not raced since Oct. 10, 2004, when he finished second to subsequent divisional champion A Bit O'Gold here in the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby.

"He was in early this year, and worked a couple of times," said Attard. "But then he fractured his tibia."

Organ Grinder comes into the Woodbine Slots Cup off a series of solid drills, but Attard is not overly optimistic.

"It's really not the right spot for him to start out," said Attard. "I had a nice seven-furlong race for him, but it wouldn't fill. He's doing very, very well but I don't know if he's tight enough to go a mile and a sixteenth. We'll just hope for the best."

Jim McAleney, who rode Organ Grinder to victory in 2 of his last 3 starts last year, will be back aboard Saturday and seeking his 12th stakes victory of the meeting.

Seattlespectacular preps for stakes

Attard also will be represented Saturday in the $87,900 prep for the Valedictory Handicap, with Seattlespectacular, who is among nine entrants for the 1 1/2-mile allowance race.

The $125,000 Valedictory, which at 1 3/4 miles is the longest stakes race of the season in Ontario, will be run on closing day, Dec. 11.

Seattlespectacular, a 5-year-old gelding, was claimed for $40,000 here Aug. 11 and has rattled off three straight wins for Attard, all on the turf and capped by the 1 1/4-mile Chief Bearhart on Oct. 29.

"I'll think he'll run good on the dirt, and he'll handle the distance,' said Attard.

Like a Gem steps up to stakes race

Like a Gem, who rallied strongly to win her five-furlong debut here Nov. 10, will be stepping into stakes company in Sunday's $139,875 Glorious Song.

The Glorious Song, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies, attracted a field of nine.

Like a Gem, a homebred who races for Garland Williamson and is trained by Danny Vella, was supposed to run much earlier than Nov. 10. She was the morning-line favorite in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special back on Aug. 9, but then had an accident.

"She got loose on the road, and she fell and skinned herself up pretty good," said Vella. "She had a lot of abrasions."

Like a Gem suffer no serious damage, but she was 18-1 when she rallied from ninth place in a field of 12 to win her debut by a length under Robert Landry. Landry has the call again Sunday.

"I was actually quite shocked she paid that much," said Vella. "I always liked this filly. I don't ever expect a horse to win, but I expected her to run well."

While Vella believes the added yardage of the Glorious Song should help Like a Gem, the timing is a concern.

"You'd like to have another week, but it's getting toward the end of the year," said Vella. "I was only able to walk her for two days after her race, because she got so high. She gave me every sign that she's fine."

Mister Coop to miss Sir Barton

Mister Coop, the 6-year-old gelding who won three sprint stakes and $299,393 for owner Syd Cooper this year, had been scheduled to run in the Nov. 27 Sir Barton but is through for the season.

"He sustained a minor injury," said Vella, adding that Mister Coop would winter at Huntington Stud Farm and is expected back next spring.

Mister Coop defeated Ontario-sired opponents in both the six-furlong New Providence and seven-furlong Overskate and Ontario-foaled rivals in the seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras in his last start Oct. 8.

Benson barn winding down here

Trainer Mac Benson doesn't expect to run many more horses here before heading south for his winter base at Payson Park.

"I have a couple of 2-year-olds I'd like to get races into, for education," said Benson. "It's so much easier to do it here than in Florida."

Benson's Florida contingent will include Arravale, the Kentucky-bred 2-year-old filly who won her first two starts on turf, including the Grade 3 Natalma here Sept. 11.

In her only other start, Arravale finished a distant ninth when trying the main track for the first time in the Grade 3 Mazarine at 1 1/16 miles.

"I'll prepare her for a season of grass racing," said Benson. "I definitely would think about running her at Keeneland on the way back up.

"Maybe I would try her on dirt again, but she seems so much more comfortable on grass."

Meanwhile, two productive members of Benson's racing team have been retired to the breeding shed.

Nashinda, a winner of three sprint stakes and $491,063, and My Pal Lana, winner of two turf stakes and $466,171, are both at Windfields Farm and will join the broodmare band of their owner and breeder, George Strawbridge Jr.

Nashinda, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old, started just nine times in her career. After winning the Whimsical and Hendrie here in her first two appearances this season, she was sidelined by foot problems in August. Plans for her to return this fall were shelved recently.

"I tried to get her back, but it just didn't work out," said Benson.

My Pal Lana, a 5-year-old Pennsylvania-bred, raced only twice in 2005.

"She just wasn't responding," said Benson. "This track, training-wise, took its toll on a lot of horses over the summer."

Benson also will begin his 2006 campaign without the services of Autumn Snow, the Ontario-bred 3-year-old gelding who finished a close second in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie.

"He had a tendon operation," said Benson. "I'll give him a year, then try him again."