06/08/2004 12:00AM

Picadilly Bay set for pre-Plate test


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Plate Trial was run here last Sunday but there's still one stop left on the Queen's Plate trail, the 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park.

One trainer who will be hoping to use Sunday's $125,000 Victoria Park as a launching pad to the June 27 Plate is John Ross, who will send out Picadilly Bay in the open race for 3-year-olds.

Owned by Gary Wellwood and Larry Titchner, Picadilly Bay showed promise in three starts at 2, running second at seven furlongs and at 1 1/16 miles before faltering badly in the Cup and Saucer over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

But Picadilly Bay hasn't made a wrong move since returning from a winter in Florida, winning his maiden over 6 1/2 furlongs in the mud April 25 and then taking a first-level allowance when facing older horses over seven furlongs of sloppy going May 24.

"I'd wanted to run him earlier at a mile and a sixteenth, but the race didn't fill," said Ross, who also had nominated Picadilly Bay to the Plate Trial. "Things got delayed, then I found another race with older horses.

"That left me too close to the Trial."

Still, Ross has been more than happy with Picadilly Bay's performances and cites two major reasons for the colt's effectiveness.

"He's been more relaxed," said Ross. "He's sitting off the pace a lot better. He's kicked in, had some gears left. That's what we were looking for this year.

"Number two, I don't have blinkers on him this year. Those things have made a difference as he's matured."

Picadilly Bay also raced without blinkers in the Cup and Saucer, but Ross believes that experience was a throw-out on all counts.

What will matter now is how Picadilly Bay adjusts to the return to two turns in the Victoria Park, with the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate on the horizon.

"The bottom line is, if he can't get the mile and an eighth, and look good doing it, he won't be going on to the Plate," said Ross.

Copper Trail works for Victoria Park

Copper Trail, another Canadian-bred who will be looking to use the Victoria Park as a stepping-stone to the Plate, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on the main track here Tuesday.

Na Somsanith, who rode Copper Trail to victory in his only previous start this year, was aboard for the drill.

"He galloped out in 1:12 and a bit," said Jim Day, who trains Copper Trail. "That was plenty of action for today; we weren't looking for anything momentous."

Copper Trail, who underwent minor surgery after winding up his first campaign with a third-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation, returned to action May 16 with a game win in a 1 1/16-mile third-level optional claimer for 3-year-olds and upward.

His Smoothness still possible for Plate

The status of His Smoothness, a second Plate aspirant in the Day stable, is uncertain following his distant fifth-place finish under Constant Montpellier in the Plate Trial.

His Smoothness had opened up his campaign with a strong second-place finish in a first-level allowance at seven furlongs but was beaten 21 1/4 lengths in the Trial.

"Montpellier said he was in very tight on the first turn, and hated where he was at," said Day. "It wasn't like he was jammed against the fence, but he had nowhere to go to get some elbow room.

"When he finally got untangled and got loose, there was just no juice in the lemon."

Day added that he could find no evident physical excuse for the performance of His Smoothness.

"Fortunately or unfortunately, he's fine," said Day. "I'm still getting over my shock syndrome.

"I haven't ruled out running him in the Plate; I'm just licking my wounds for a day or two."

Little Bentley injured

Little Bentley, an encouraging third when making his local debut in the Trial, is out of the Queen's Plate picture.

"He injured his right knee," said trainer Todd Pletcher, "and he's going to have to go for some surgery."

Little Bentley has been based in New York with Pletcher and is owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk and Bill and Iris Bristow. Those same connections campaigned Archers Bay, the 1998 Plate winner and sire of Little Bentley.

The Melnyks recently sold the Bristows an interest in both Little Bentley and Kent Ridge, another son of Archers Bay, who is Plate-bound.

Kent Ridge, trained here by Mark Casse, has started just once this year, winning a first-level allowance for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward over 1 1/16 miles here May 21.

Long Pond earns way to Queen's Plate

Casse and the Melnyks have another Plate probable in Long Pond, who won his maiden over seven furlongs here May 14 and doubled up in a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/16 miles last Sunday.

"All things considered, I thought it was a very good race," said Casse. "I wanted to get a race into him around two turns, where he wouldn't have to run too, too hard."

While acknowledging that Long Pond's final time of 1:46.78 was "moderate," Casse was impressed by the way the colt handled his first try beyond seven furlongs.

"The fractions were so slow," said Casse, "and he rated really good. I think this sets him up for anything you want to do with him in the Plate. He could be on the lead; you could put him anywhere."

Husbands, who has been aboard Long Pond for each of his four career starts, also is the regular rider of Kent Ridge, and will take his pick of the pair for the Plate.