05/17/2007 11:00PM

Palladio aims to regain winning form

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It has been a while since Palladio has been seen around these parts, with his last Woodbine appearance being a victory in the Ontario Derby in fall 2005.

But Palladio could put his name back on the marquee as he faces some crack opposition in Monday's Grade 3, $150,000 Eclipse at 1 1/16 miles.

"He's sitting on a big race," said Roger Attfield, who trains Palladio.

Palladio, a 5-year-old Florida-bred horse, wound up his 2005 campaign with a Sovereign Award as Canada's top 3-year-old male and resurfaced the following spring in Keeneland's Ben Ali.

That venture proved to be an unfortunate one, however, as Palladio emerged from his distant fifth-place finish with a condylar fracture and underwent surgery.

"We gave him a lot of time before we brought him back," said Attfield, who took Palladio down to his winter base at Payson Park late last year.

"He came around very, very well."

Palladio returned with a seventh-place finish in a open turf allowance at Gulfstream on Feb. 22.

"I needed to get him started because I was looking at the Skip Away and the Ben Ali," Attfield said. "The turf was very firm, and he was much too close to the pace."

Palladio came from off the pace to finish fourth, beaten by just 1 1/2 lengths, in the Skip Away, a Grade 3 race over 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream on March 31.

And in his second crack at the Grade 3 Ben Ali, at 1 1/8 miles on April 26, Palladio rallied to finish sixth, beaten by 1 3/4 lengths by Jade's Revenge, who is invading Woodbine for the Eclipse.

"He was training like a bear going into the Ben Ali," Attfield said. "I thought he was going to win. He just got too far back off a slow pace."

Palladio is among four Canadian champions in the Eclipse field along with True Metropolitan (older male, 2006), Judiths Wild Rush (sprinter, 2005 and 2006, and 2-year-old male, 2003), and Shillelagh Slew (3-year-old male, 2006).

Attfield had planned to field a second Eclipse entrant in Eccentric, a 6-year-old gelding, but had to scrap that plan Friday morning.

"His blood's not right," said Attfield, "so, I didn't put him in."

Eccentric is a Polytrack specialist, having won seven races at Lingfield Park in England before joining Attfield here in summer 2006.

After finishing third behind subsequent Canadian champion Sky Conqueror in a one-mile turf race, Eccentric journeyed to Keeneland and was an upset winner of the Grade 3 Fayette at 1 1/8 miles on the Polytrack surface.

His first start on Polytrack here came in the Grade 3 Woodbine Slots Cup, a 1 1/16-mile race on Nov. 18 which turned out to be his last of the season.

"He went down to Payson Park with us, and we gave him some easy time through the winter with the intention of putting a summer campaign into him," Attfield said.

Eccentric made his seasonal bow in the Ben Ali, where he faltered to finish ninth after forcing and setting the pace.

"I thought he was going to be too sharp and short," said Attfield, "and he was."

Start of turf racing delayed again

The first turf race of the meeting remained on hold as of Friday when the afternoon's feature, the $86,900 allowance prep for the Nassau, was switched to a mile and 70 yards of Polytrack due to heavy rainfall earlier this week.

Last Sunday's prep for the Connaught Cup was rescheduled for the main track prior to the taking of entries because the turf course was deemed to be unready for use.

A field of nine fillies and mares had been entered for the Nassau prep, including a Polytrack-only entrant, and there was only one scratch.

The Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, will be run here June 2.

Jambalaya skips Connaught Cup

The Grade 3, $150,000 Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and upward here next Sunday, will be the first turf stakes of the meeting.

A total of 31 horses were nominated, but one who was conspicuous by his absence is Jambalaya, a 5-year-old gelding who is owned and trained by Catherine Day Phillips.

Jambalaya won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup over 1 1/2 miles of turf on Feb. 24 and the Grade 3 Pan American over 1 3/8 miles of turf on March 31 in Florida in his two most recent starts.

After getting a bit of a breather at the Day Phillips farm in the Ocala, Fla., area, Jambalaya returned to Woodbine on April 21.

"I had my eye on the Connaught Cup," said Day Phillips, "but he'd lost a little more fitness than we thought.

"He ended up having a little more of a break than we'd planned on. He's just getting ready to breeze now."

Jambalaya's next major target is the Grade 2, $300,000 King Edward Breeders' Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race here July 2.

CTHS announces awards

The late Jake Howard has been named as the winner of the Mint Julep Cup, a lifetime achievement award, and Gardiner Farm has been named breeder of the year for 2006, the local Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society announced this week.

Those award winners, along with the outstanding breeders of Ontario-bred winners for 2006, will be honored at the annual CTHS awards dinner at the Toronto Airport Marriott Hotel on June 15.

Tickets, at a cost of $79.50 (including GST), can be purchased at the CTHS office or by phone at (416) 675-3602.