07/20/2006 12:00AM

Pellegrino needs to show old self


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Pellegrino's bandwagon may be losing momentum heading into Sunday's first running of the $700,000 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf here at Woodbine.

But Pellegrino is undoubtedly talented, and if he's in the mood, then the 1 1/2-mile turf race could be his for the taking.

Pellegrino, a 7-year-old horse, is an Argentine transplant who displayed steady improvement in North America and won the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup in December of 2004 for trainer Don Burke.

Pellegrino failed to finish in the top three in his next seven starts, however, and was transferred to trainer Roger Attfield following a ninth-place finish in Calder's W.L. McKnight last December.

On April 28, Pellegrino debuted for Attfield with a victory in the Grade 3 Elkhorn over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Keeneland.

But in his next appearance, which came in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf at Churchill Downs a month later, Pellegrino was fifth.

Attfield added blinkers to Pellegrino's equipment for his next and most recent start in an attempt to counter what appeared to be his reluctance in traffic.

But that race, Pellegrino's first over the E.P. Taylor turf course, resulted in a soundly beaten fourth-place finish at 1 1/2 miles.

So, which Pellegrino will show up for the Northern Dancer?

"After the last two races he ran, I really don't know," said Attfield. "I'm blaming myself for putting blinkers on him, but maybe he was going to run that kind of race anyway.

"He was definitely very rank, and didn't settle. We're not going to put the blinkers back on him, that's for sure."

Pellegrino came back to breeze six furlongs over the E.P. Taylor turf course between races last Friday, without blinkers and with jockey Jim McAleney in the irons for the first time.

"I thought he worked nicely over it," said Attfield. "We were happy with it, and the kid that was on him was happy with it.

"I think he's difficult to ride. There are certain things I've learned about him; I think he's got to be ridden a certain way."

Perhaps McAleney, who will Pellegrino's 13th rider in his 26th career start, will be the answer.

Anniversary celebration on Sunday

Woodbine will be pulling out all the stops on Sunday, the day chosen for its 50th anniversary celebration. The track opened its doors on June 12, 1956.

Woodbine also will be giving away a 50th anniversary commemorative magazine, and a free boxed set of the recently introduced Woodbine jockey card collection will be available to the first 1,000 customers.

There also will be a special offer on Daily Racing Form, which will sell for $1 and includes a 16-page commemorative section entitled "50 years at Woodbine."

Book-signings and 1950's celebrity look-alikes also will be part of the party.

Bad Hat by a head

Bad Hat prevailed over the 4-5 favorite, Tothemoonandback, in a thrilling renewal of the $125,400 Deputy Minister Stakes here Wednesday night.

Tothemoonandback blew the first turn in the 7 1/2-furlong Deputy Minister and went very wide under Jim McAleney.

Bad Hat, with Todd Kabel aboard, found himself in an ideal stalking position going down the backstretch, and they made a three-wide bid for the lead on the far turn as Tothemoonandback circled four wide into contention.

Bad Hat hit the front at the head of the stretch and was soon joined by Tothemoonandback, who took a slim lead inside the sixteenth pole. Bad Hat came back on nearing the wire, and won by a head.

"Jimmy had trouble with his horse on the first turn, and we certainly benefited from it," said Kabel. "I thought he had me turning for home, but my horse dug in and fought back very gamely."

McAleney said Tothemoonand-back was very brave in defeat.

"My horse had a little trouble getting around there, and the dirt hitting him in the face caught him off guard," McAleney said. "When you miss that turn on a tight, speed-conducive racetrack like this one, you just have too much left to do."

Bad Hat, trained by Mike DePaulo for a partnership that includes himself and Bel Ange Bloodstock, returned $5 and headed an exactor worth $11.80. First-place money of $75,000 boosted his earnings to $299,250.

After stumbling at the break, I'm Spectral wound up third in the six-horse field of Ontario-sired 3-year-olds.

Kabel dominant in stakes action

The Deputy Minister was the first stakes victory of the meeting for DePaulo and the meet-leading ninth for Kabel.

DePaulo and Kabel, of course, were on opposite ends of the spectrum in last Sunday's $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie.

Malakoff, with Kabel aboard, finished first but was disqualified and placed fifth as Shillelagh Slew, trained by DePaulo and ridden by Dino Luciani, inherited the top spot.

That decision has been appealed to the Ontario Racing Commission.

The Deputy Minister also was Kabel's fifth consecutive stakes win here and his seventh consecutive first-place finish in a stakes, as he guided See to Wind to victory in last Sunday's Ernie Samuel Memorial at Fort Erie before the incident with Malakoff.

Kabel is scheduled to be at Arlington Park on Saturday, where he has the mount on Amigoni in the $250,000 American Derby.

On Sunday, Kabel will be back at Woodbine for mounts in two of the day's three stakes. He will ride Sky Conqueror in the Northern Dancer and Flaming Heart, the probable favorite, in the $125,000 Ontario Matron.

The Ontario Matron, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares, attracted a field of six.

DePaulo, meanwhile, will be represented by Millfleet in Sunday's other supporting feature, the $75,000 Ontario Jockey Club.

The Ontario Jockey Club, a seven-furlong overnight turf stakes for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward, will go with six entrants.

Millfleet, a 5-year-old gelding, moved into DePaulo's barn and has run very well in his last three starts. After ending second in the six-furlong New Providence and the 1 1/16-mile Steady Growth, both Ontario-sired stakes, Millfleet ran second to Judiths Wild Rush in the 6 1/2-furlong allowance prep for the Bold Venture.

"He's running dynamite," said DePaulo. "They're the best races he's run in his life. He just hasn't won them."

Millfleet is a stakes winner on turf, having captured the restricted one-mile Bunty Lawless here in 2004 for former trainer Hugo Dittfach.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink