04/23/2008 11:00PM

Out-of-town stakes keep Lynch busy


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Brian Lynch, back in town following a solid Gulfstream Park meeting for Stronach Stable, still has some unfinished business south of the border.

Saturday, Lynch will be back in Florida to saddle Ginger Brew for the $200,000 Calder Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies.

Ginger Brew started three times at Gulfstream, finishing second twice before winning a first-level turf allowance at 1 1/16 miles by four lengths.

The following Saturday, Kentucky Derby Day, Lynch plans to be at Churchill Downs to send out Sugar Swirl for the Grade 1, $300,000 Humana Distaff, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares.

Sugar Swirl, a 5-year-old Ontario-bred, captured all three graded sprint stakes for fillies and mares during Gulfstream's meet with wins in the Grade 3 First Lady, Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie, and the Grade 2 Shirley Jones.

"That clean sweep of the stakes series with her was the highlight of our meeting," said Lynch, whose horses won 14 of 42 starts and $681,130 at Gulfstream's meet.

Another highlight was the emergence of Spring Waltz, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old who made a winning stakes debut in the Grade 2 Rampart, a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares.

"She's been a real pleasant surprise," said Lynch.

If all remains well, Sugar Swirl and Spring Waltz could take Lynch on some major road trips this summer and fall, with the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita an ultimate destination.

In the meantime, Lynch will have plenty of promising stakes prospects on the home front, particularly with a strong group of Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies who have designs on the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.

Ginger Brew, who won her maiden going six furlongs on Polytrack in her only start here at 2, recorded one of her second-place finishes in a one-mile dirt race at Gulfstream and currently ranks as the barn's leading prospect for the June 8, 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks.

Money By Honey and Halloween Witch both won their maidens over seven furlongs at Gulfstream, while Saffron Rose finished first in both of her starts at that distance here last year but was disqualified on the first occasion.

"We're hoping they're going to develop toward the Oaks," said Lynch.

Money By Honey, second in both of her starts here last year, followed her maiden victory with a third-place finish in a first-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles.

Halloween Witch, who won her only start, was nominated to Sunday's $150,000 Fury, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds, but will not run.

"We want to get a two-turn race into her," said Lynch.

The outlook is not as bright for Lynch's barn when it comes to the June 22 Queen's Plate.

Handsome Blue and Sligovitz, who went to Gulfstream as highly regarded maidens, are still winless and were soundly beaten in their most recent efforts.

Handsome Blue had run a huge race over 1 1/8 miles of slop on March 23 but was beaten almost 23 lengths when fifth as the odds-on choice on April 13.

"It was a disappointing effort," said Lynch. "I felt I ran him back a little too quick, and he bounced.

"I'll give him a little bit of time, and hopefully get him back on the Plate trail."

Sligovitz had come close when second over 1 1/16 miles at Calder but was unplaced in two 1 1/8-mile races at Gulfstream, finishing more than 18 lengths back in third in his most recent appearance.

"I think he has distance limitations, and that he's a better horse on grass," said Lynch.

Lynch's stall allotment here was cut from 40 to 32 this year, but Team Stronach's Adena Springs North is just a half-hour away and sports excellent training facilities.

"I've got a barn up at the farm with 40 horses," said Lynch. "I'm looking forward to a good year here."

Prince Atlantis liable to improve

Trainer Norm McKnight will be looking to make waves here Saturday when he sends out Prince Atlantis for the $150,000 Jacques Cartier at six furlongs.

Prince Atlantis, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old colt, finished a close third in his first start of the season here April 5 in the five-furlong prep for the Cartier.

"I think he ran a real good race; the distance just didn't suit him much," said McKnight.

"He likes an elongated run down the backstretch - six and a half furlongs would suit him even better. But, hopefully, he got a lot out of that race. He came back and worked well."

Prince Atlantis joined McKnight here last spring, winning his maiden for $40,000 in his second local appearance and going on to record five more victories, capped by a second-level allowance score on Dec. 9.

"He kind of surprised us; he had a fantastic year," said McKnight. "When he first came up last year I thought he was a decent horse, but he exceeded our expectations."

Olguin hit by car in parking lot

Gerry Olguin, who piloted Prince Atlantis to five of his wins and was aboard for his first start this season, had the call for Saturday.

Olguin, however, will be on the sidelines after being hit by a car in one of the parking lots here on Wednesday morning. Olguin was scheduled to visit a doctor on Thursday to determine the extent of his injuries.

Jerry Baird will replace Olguin on Prince Atlantis for the Cartier.

Assistant trainer saddles first horse

Rachel Halden, a longtime assistant to trainer Roger Attfield, has gone out on her own and will have her first starter here Saturday when she saddles Likely for the sixth race.

"I always wanted to train on my own, and for the last couple of years I'd thought about it more and more," said Halden, 36, a native of Yorkshire, England.

"Roger and I sat down and talked about and when the opportunity arose, I took it."

As for Likely, the 5-year-old gelding will be making his first start since October 13, 2006, in Saturday's 5 1/2-furlong second-level optional $60,000 claimer. As a 3-year-old, Likely was a nine-length winner of Keeneland's Lafayette.

"He's a classy old horse," said Halden, who has eight stalls here. "If he can come back to any of his old form, he'll run a good race."