07/27/2003 11:00PM

Owens, clients still coping


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Next Monday will mark a very unhappy one-year anniversary for trainer Steve Owens and others who suffered losses in a barn fire that led to the deaths of 34 horses here at Woodbine.

Owens lost his entire ontrack complement of 14 horses, a crushing blow for the racing and breeding programs of his own family and of several longtime owners.

"It's been a traumatic experience," Owens said. "All of my owners have suffered. Some of them are trying to get back into the game, and it's a long grieving process."

Owens, in the midst of that regrouping phase, has 19 horses here for a variety of clients, plus a few more on the farm.

"We're working it out," Owens said. "We've got a couple of older horses, and a lot of 2-year-olds."

A recent acquisition provided a bright spot last Saturday as La Grande Mamma, claimed for $25,000 from her successful debut here July 4, earned $82,425 by winning the six-furlong Nandi Stakes.

La Grande Mamma is owned by a new client, Don Lebovitz, who races under the nom du course Great Plyer.

"He came to me a couple of months ago, looking for me to claim him a horse," said Owens, who became interested in La Grande Mamma after the filly caught his eye on the racetrack one morning.

"She was a nice-looking filly. I claimed her because she's Ontario-sired, and foaled in Canada. She has good scope."

Although he was not aware of it at the time, Owens has since discovered that La Grande Mamma is eligible for the local yearling sales stakes, having gone through the ring at Fasig-Tipton's open local auction. When the filly's $15,000 reserve was not met she remained the property of her former owner and her breeder, Fieldstone Farm.

The Muskoka, the seven-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies that will be one of six $125,000 yearling sales stakes here Sept. 1, is La Grande Mamma's next target.

Adding to the appeal of those races are the $15,000 bonuses for the winning trainers of the six stakes.

'Storm' rebounds nicely

Some people might have thought Stormthebarricade, who had clipped heels and fallen here in the June 14 Victoria Stakes, would be psychologically vulnerable when he returned in last Sunday's Bull Page.

But his trainer and co-owner, Laurie Silvera, had discredited that notion and Stormthebarricade kept up his end of the bargain by romping to victory in the $133,375 Bull Page.

"This horse wasn't more than 75 percent fit - that's an absolute fact," Silvera said. "I relied on his ability and his temperament to forgive me, and he did.

"Three weeks ago he just wasn't traveling to suit me, and that caused me a lot of concern. But in the last 10 days, I was absolutely satisfied. He was completely sound."

Stormthebarricade was purchased for $25,000 at the select session of the local yearling sale and will now be pointed for the seven-furlong Simcoe, the yearling sales stakes race for 2-year-old colts and geldings.

"Hopefully, I can get him to that race 100 percent fit," Silvera said.

Ramsammy strong in stakes

Jockey Emile Ramsammy was recording his sixth stakes win of the meet aboard Stormthebarricade and will try to add to that total with his agent, Neal Wilson, having lined up some live mounts for this weekend.

Saturday, Ramsammy has the call on Leading Role for the Grade 3, $150,000 Royal North Handicap, a six-furlong turf race for fillies and mares.

Leading Role, trained and owned in part by Gail Casselman, had Ramsammy up when she won the prep, a six-furlong turf race here July 13, and has been assigned 116 pounds for the Royal North.

Monday, Ramsammy is scheduled to ride both ends of a stakes doubleheader, with calls on Alpha Saphire in the $250,000 Wonder Where and Heyahohowdy in the $125,000 Victoriana.

The Wonder Where is a 1 1/4-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, while the Victoriana for Ontario-sired fillies and mares will be run at 1 1/16 miles on grass.

Alpha Saphire, owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Malcolm Pierce, comes into the Wonder Where following a close second-place finish in an allowance prep at 1 1/8 miles on turf here July 13.

Heyahohowdy, trained by Abraham Katryan, finished a troubled fourth in her last start in the Zadracarta, a six-furlong turf race here June 30.

Ramsammy was aboard both fillies for their five-furlong workouts on the training track turf course here Sunday, with Alpha Sapphire clocked in 1:00.60 and Heyahohowdy in 1:01.40.

In the meantime, Ramsammy will be serving a two-day suspension this Wednesday and Thursday and has been fined $1,500 for misuse of his whip. The stewards ruled Ramsammy had cut his mount, Sheriff's Posse, on the right flank during the running of the fifth race here July 23.

Alpha Heat sharp for Royal North

Alpha Heat, winner of the Zadracarta and a leading candidate for the Royal North, drilled five furlongs in a bullet 59.80 seconds on the main track Sunday.

"That was the best work of her life, and I think she'll run the race of her life," said Reade Baker, who trains Alpha Heat for Stronach Stable.

Jim McAleney has the mount on Alpha Heat, who has been weighted at 117 for the Royal North.