10/10/2005 12:00AM

Palladio performs as his trainer expected

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Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Palladio wins the Ontario Derby to earn a career-best 100 Beyer Figure.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Roger Attfield wanted to prove a point with Palladio in Sunday's $165,750 Ontario Derby.

Palladio, a Florida-bred 3-year-old colt, had been very impressive in winning Woodbine's Victoria Park and Thistledown's Grade 2 Ohio Derby earlier this year.

But Palladio's two most recent outings had been disappointing: a well-beaten fifth in Monmouth's Grade 1 Haskell and a nonthreatening seventh in Saratoga's Grade 3 Saranac on turf.

"I felt bad for the horse," said Attfield, who had a firm conviction that track conditions had compromised Palladio's chances in the Haskell and that the colt had been the victim of an "abysmal ride" at Saratoga.

"I wanted to see him run the way I know he can," Attfield said. "I think he's a very good horse."

Palladio, under a confident ride from regular partner Richard Dos Ramos, proved his trainer's thoughts right, rallying from last place in the field of eight to win the Ontario Derby by a half-length.

All three of Palladio's stakes wins have come at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, and his 100 Beyer Speed Figure on Sunday is his career best.

Attfield, however, is unsure what lies immediately ahead for Palladio.

"I just wanted to see him get this job done," said Attfield. "He's done so well on dirt, but I always felt he prefers turf."

The Ontario Derby is also Palladio's third start in Canada this season, which makes him eligible for consideration in this year's Sovereign Award voting.

"That's why I wanted to run him here," said Attfield. "He needed to make this start, and I felt pretty confident he could win."

Invitational ices top spot

Invitational moved to the top of the 3-year-old filly turf division here Saturday, winning the $164,000 Carotene by a convincing two lengths under regular rider Jono Jones.

Trained by Catherine Day Phillips, Invitational gained her first stakes victory and her third win from four starts on turf. Her lone turf loss was a second-place finish here in the 1 1/4-mile Wonder Where, which was won by Silver Highlight, who ran fourth in the Carotene.

"She ran awesome," said Day Phillips, who watched Invitational win the Carotene from the Belmont racing office. "She's really come to hand nicely. She's still a little bit green, but she's really starting to put it together."

Invitational is nominated to the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares here on Canadian International Day, Oct. 23.

"It's a possibility," said Day Phillips. "We'll have to see who's coming and how she comes out of this race."

Jambalaya's trip ends in a scratch

Day Phillips flew to New York on Friday to watch Jambalaya, the 3-year-old gelding who races for her Kingfield Farm, compete in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

But when heavy rain forced the Jamaica to the main track, Jambalaya was scratched and shipped back to Woodbine on Sunday.

Jambalaya got the kinks out by breezing five furlongs in 1:03.80 under Jones on the main track Monday and might return to Belmont for the Oct. 23 Lawrence Realization, a 1 1/2-mile turf race.

But Jambalaya also is nominated to the Grade 1, $1 million Canadian International, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for which his stablemate, A Bit O'Gold, is also a candidate.

Jambalaya became a stakes winner against fellow Canadian-breds in the Aug. 7 Breeders' here at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

In his last start, Jambalaya won the Saranac at Saratoga over 1 3/16 miles on the turf.

Mister Coop leads gate to wire

Mister Coop appeared to have his opponents over a barrel here in Saturday's $81,000 Mt. Sassafras, and he showed no mercy.

"He just keeps getting better," said trainer Danny Vella, after watching Mister Coop score by a length in the seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras for his third stakes win of the year.

"I thought he showed a lot of tenacity, showing that kind of speed and hanging on," Vella said.

Mister Coop, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Syd Cooper, was typically coming from off the pace earlier this year, but he assumed command early when winning the seven-furlong Overskate here Sept. 21 and led at every call in the Mt. Sassafras.

"We wanted to change tactics a little bit and have him sit closer," said Vella. "But the horse doesn't seem to want to cooperate. He's wanting to sit off it, or be in front."

Mister Coop's next major target is the $125,000 Sir Barton, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward here Nov. 27.

In the meantime, Vella will be keeping a close eye on the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on behalf of Knights Templar.

A Florida-bred who is trained and partly owned by Vella, Knights Templar earned an impressive Beyer Speed Figure of 93 when romping by 13 1/4 lengths in the Grade 3 Mazarine here Oct. 1.

The Mazarine is a 1 1/16-mile race around two turns, while the Juvenile Fillies at Belmont is a one-turn race at the same distance.

Classic Stamp works under backup

Classic Stamp, another locally based candidate for the E.P. Taylor, worked seven furlongs in 1:28.20 on the main track here Sunday.

"I think the training track turf is getting pretty well dug up right now," said Darwin Banach, who trains Classic Stamp for owner and breeder Bill Sorokolit. "We thought the main track would be safer. We just wanted a long, maintenance-type work."

Jones filled in as Classic Stamp's rider for the drill because the mare's regular rider, Emma Wilson, suffered a bruised upper thigh when involved in a spill during the Carotene.

Wilson, who gained her first stakes win with Classic Stamp in the Grade 2 Canadian here Sept. 18, was off her mounts Sunday and Monday but might return by Wednesday.