04/29/2008 11:00PM

Pierce builds on strong winter


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Malcolm Pierce, riding the crest of solid meetings at Fair Grounds and Keeneland, checked back into Woodbine last Saturday.

"We had a great winter," said Pierce, 51, who recorded 16 winners from 63 starters at the Fair Grounds meeting, which began late last fall, and added 3 wins from 14 starts at Keeneland.

"It seems to be, so far, carrying on here."

Pierce's wife and assistant, Sally, sent out two winners from the barn's first eight local starters before the trainer himself arrived to saddle Thumbin' a Ride for a score under second-level allowance terms here Sunday.

"I think she's even better on grass," said Pierce, who watched Thumbin' a Ride win over 5 1/2 furlongs of Polytrack.

"I don't know if she's stakes caliber, but she's decent."

Pierce has won seven stakes since leaving Woodbine last fall, three coming with Danceroftherealm and two apiece with Sterwins and Autobahn Girl.

Danceroftherealm, an English-bred 5-year-old mare who races for her owner and breeder Richard Lister, displayed sharply improved form at Fair Grounds with three wins - all over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf - including the Leggio Memorial and Bienville.

In her latest, over 5 1/2 furlongs on the Keeneland turf course, Danceroftherealm made it four in a row in the Giant's Causeway.

"I don't know whether she's just matured, but she's really learned to relax," Pierce said. "It might be because there's more speed in those races. She's come with a big kick in her last four."

There are few turf sprint opportunities here for the filly/mare set, but the Grade 2, $150,000 Royal North, a six-furlong race on Aug. 2, is a long-term target for Danceroftherealm.

Sterwins should have no such problem finding races here as the 5-year-old gelding is an Ontario-bred who now is proven on turf and Polytrack.

Sterwins won the Diliberto Memorial over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Fair Grounds last December and the Grade 3 Ben Ali when making his Polytrack debut over 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland.

"Now that we know he Polytracks, he could run here in either the Connaught Cup or the Eclipse," Pierce said.

"He'll be nominated to both, and as we get closer we'll make a decision."

Both the Connaught Cup and the Eclipse are 1 1/16-mile races that offer Grade 3 status and $150,000 purses. The Connaught Cup, on turf, comes up May 25 and the Eclipse, on the main track, June 7.

Autobahn Girl, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old filly, won the Pago Hop over one mile on turf at Fair Grounds last November and the off-the-turf Marie Krantz Memorial over 1 1/16 miles of sloppy going there in January.

"She's a decent filly; she just needed a little break," said Pierce, who watched Autobahn Girl finish eighth last time out in a Keeneland turf allowance.

"I think the Nassau would be her goal, for lack of something better to do."

The Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, will be run here May 31.

In the interim, Pierce is eyeing another filly/mare stakes, with both One Across and Saoirse Cat nominated to the Grade 3, $150,000 Hendrie, a 6 1/2-furlong race here May 11.

One Across, an Ontario-bred 5-year-old, was with Pierce at Fair Grounds but made her seasonal debut here April 12, finishing a close second under third-level allowance terms at 5 1/2 furlongs.

"She came down to me late, just to get ready," Pierce said. "She was a little unlucky in her race here, and she worked very well the other day."

One Across, in her first work since her opener, breezed four furlongs in an eye-catching 45.20 seconds here last Saturday.

Saoirse Cat, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old, joined Pierce here last year and picked up minor awards in four starts before going unplaced in two tries at Fair Grounds.

"She went to the farm and had a break," Pierce said. "She's just ready now; she seems fairly fit."

Cool Gator gets back to work

Cool Gator, one of the leading contenders for the Queen's Plate, breezed four furlongs in 49.80 seconds here Wednesday.

The workout was the first for Cool Gator since he finished fifth in Gulfstream's March 29 Florida Derby, his second outing of the season.

"We gave him a little light work, something to get him started," said Danny Vella, who trains Cool Gator.

"He worked well and galloped out strong. He's retained a lot of fitness. He's fit and fresh; that's where we want to be right now."

Vella said Cool Gator would start just once before the Queen's Plate, in either the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Marine here May 17 or the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial on June 1.

The $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be run June 22.

Broken shoulder sidelines Olguin

Jockey Gerry Olguin will be sidelined three to six weeks with a broken scapula. The scapula, or shoulder blade, connects the humerus (arm bone) with the clavicle (collar bone).

Olguin was injured when struck by a car in one of the parking lots here last Wednesday.

"I was hoping to be back sooner, but I always seem to heal quickly and I'm hopeful it will be three weeks," said Olguin, 35.

"I can't have an operation for this, so I'll be doing therapy every day."

Olguin, who is closing in on 1,600 career victories, has 3 wins and 10 top-three finishes from his first 25 mounts at this meeting.

Morrison hosts handicapping seminar

Jennifer Morrison, a Daily Racing Form correspondent and Woodbine's oddsmaker, will host her first handicapping seminar of the season here Saturday, focusing on the Kentucky Derby and the racing scene at Woodbine.

The one-hour session begins at 11 a.m. on the second floor of the grandstand, and Morrison's scheduled guest is assistant trainer Steve Flint, who is in charge of Steve Asmussen's division here. Flint joined Asmussen assistant Darren Fleming here last month.

Fleming has returned home to Texas and is working at Lone Star Park, but soon will be heading to Presque Isle Downs to run an Asmussen string there.

The Asmussen stable had won with 3 of 17 starters heading into Friday's Woodbine card.