08/17/2004 11:00PM

Pair of Natalma hopefuls may prep on turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - On Wednesday morning, trainers Malcolm Pierce and Mark Casse were considering their options had Friday's allowance prep for the Natalma Stakes failed to fill.

But neither needed to worry, since the prep, a $67,900 race over seven furlongs on turf, attracted a field of nine 2-year-old fillies.

The Natalma, a one-mile turf race, offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000 here Sept. 12.

Pierce is expected to send out Ring City for Friday's feature, and Casse will likely send Little Hussy, who would be coupled with first-time starter Dolce Diva.

If they run in the prep, Ring City and Little Hussy would be trying turf for the first time. They also were nominated to Sunday's Ontario Debutante, a $125,000 filly race over six furlongs on the main track.

Ring City won her debut over five furlongs here July 9, but then finished a distant fourth in the 5 1/2-furlong Shady Well on July 24.

"I was a little disappointed," said Pierce, of Ring City's Shady Well effort. "But she was coming back in two weeks, and she was nervous on post parade. Maybe it was too much to throw at a 2-year-old."

Ring City worked well on the turf training course Aug. 6, going five furlongs in 59.60 seconds, and came back with a bullet five-furlong drill of 1:00.20 on the main track last Friday.

"I'll be happy for the chance to try her on turf, so we can make up our minds whether to go on to the Natalma," said Pierce.

Little Hussy made her debut with a 5 1/2-length score for trainer Bill White over six furlongs at Calder on July 18 and joined Casse's string here early this month.

A Kentucky-bred owned by Pennston Farm, Little Hussy will be making her second career start here under new rider Patrick Husbands.

"She won pretty impressively," said Casse, who sent out Little Hussy to work five furlongs on the turf training track in 1:00 on Aug. 8. "Patrick breezed her on the grass here, and he loved the way she went."

Handpainted retired to breeding shed

Handpainted, a Woodbine-based 4-year-old filly who is a multiple stakes winner with earnings of $435,406, has been retired to the breeding shed.

Owned by John and Glen Sikura and bred in Kentucky in the name of their Hill 'n' Dale Farm, Handpainted was trained by Josie Carroll. Handpainted was sent to Hill 'n' Dale in Kentucky after finishing sixth in the 6 1/2-furlong Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Aug. 14.

"She's been great to us," said Glen Sikura, head of the Hill 'n' Dale operation in Ontario. "We don't want to go forward unless we can accomplish something of great significance, and right now I don't know that we can. She's got little niggling things bothering her, and the two of us would never forgive ourselves if we weren't to stop on her and it developed into something more significant."

By A.P. Indy out of the Deputy Minister mare Daijin, Handpainted won the six-furlong Ontario Debutante here at 2 and finished second in the Grade 2 Mazarine at 1 1/16 miles, ending as the runner-up in the Sovereign Award voting for her division.

After finishing second here in the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Selene in her second start as a 3-year-old, Handpainted was off for more than eight months, but returned in victorious fashion in the six-furlong Pan Zareta at Fair Grounds.

Handpainted then won the one-mile Goddess at Delta Downs before returning to Woodbine, where she finished third in both the Grade 3 Hendrie at 6 1/2 furlongs and the Ontario Debutante at 1 1/16 miles, and fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Belle Mahone.

Handpainted retires with a record of 5 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds from 12 starts.

"I don't know who we'll breed her to yet," said Sikura. "But it will be a top sire. I would think she'd be potentially a blue-hen mare for us."

Slew Valley puts in fastest work

Slew Valley, who is slated to make his next start here in the Sept. 19 Atto Mile, worked five furlongs in 59.20 on a fast main track Wednesday.

Regular rider Jim McAleney was aboard for the drill, which was the fastest of 27 at the distance.

Reade Baker, who conditions Slew Valley for Jim Hindman and Alan Burkhard, elected to train Slew Valley up to the Grade 1, $1 million Atto Mile after Slew Valley finished sixth here in the July 22 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes over 1 3/8 miles on turf.

A 7-year-old who was sent to Baker this spring, Slew Valley had won his first two starts here in turf stakes, taking the 1 1/16-mile Connaught Cup on May 30 and the 1 1/8-mile King Edward Breeders' Cup on June 19.

Raylene working toward turf debut

Raylene, another relative newcomer to the Baker barn, also worked five furlongs on the main track Wednesday, going in 1:00.60 under Gerry Olguin.

Alberta's reigning horse of the year, Raylene ran third when making her first start here in the 1 1/16-mile Belle Mahone July 18 and then captured a classified allowance at the same distance Aug. 2.

A 4-year-old mare, Raylene is aiming for the Grade 2, $250,000 Canadian Handicap here Sept. 19, when she would be making her turf debut at 1 1/8 miles.