07/14/2010 5:32PM

Pierce's stable begins to pick up the pace

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Malcolm Pierce’s fortunes took a turn for the better here at Woodbine last week.

Pierce, who had been batting well below his usual percentage this season, was 3 for 5 last week, highlighted by a one-two finish by Mullin’s Beach and Much Obliged in last Friday’s allowance prep for the Grade 3 Royal North Stakes on Aug. 2.

Arrow’s Conquest had chipped in with a first-level allowance race earlier on last Friday’s card and Posh Sox was a first-out winner in an Ontario-sired maiden race on Saturday.

“We had a good couple of days,” said Pierce, in his office here the other morning.

And the best may be yet to come with Points of Grace, Canada’s champion turf female in 2009, slated to run in Sunday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Dance Smartly.

The 5-year-old Points of Grace became a stakes winner in last year’s Dance Smartly but had been winter-raced and was making her eighth start since beginning her career the previous November. This time around, Points of Grace has just one start under her belt. She finished fourth in the Grade 2 Nassau over one mile of turf here June 5.

“It was tough,” said Pierce. “She’s got kind of a speed style, making her first start back, off a long layoff. Hopefully, she’s improved enough to run a mile and an eighth.”

Points of Grace had her final Dance Smartly tune-up here last Sunday, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.40. Her regular rider, Luis Contreras, has the call on Sunday.

Mullins Beach, an Ontario-bred 5-year-old who has won stakes on both turf and Polytrack, was a convincing winner of the Royal North prep, a six-furlong race which was taken off the turf.

“She ran a much better race,” said Pierce. “She was very strong.”

Mullins Beach made her first start of the year in the Zadracarta over seven furlongs of grass here June 19 and faltered badly to finish last of 10 under her regular rider Eurico Rosa Da Silva.

“That was a hot, humid day,” said Pierce. “She’d been off so long, and she doesn’t react well to that kind of weather. She got a little wobbly-legged, and Eurico wrapped up on her.”

The 5-year-old Much Obliged, a two-time stakes winner on turf, was shortening up after making her last 15 starts at one mile or farther.

“That was a little bit of an experiment, to cut her back to six furlongs,” said Pierce. “I thought she actually ran really well. Mullins Beach got the jump on her, turning for home, but she finished well.”

Both Mullins Beach and Much Obliged could meet again in the $150,000 Royal North, a six-furlong turf race for fillies and mares.

The 3-year-old colt Arrow’s Conquest remained perfect in two starts by winning a seven-furlong allowance.

After graduating in impressive fashion over the same distance here June 19, Arrow’s Conquest had been entered in the July 3 Charlie Barley but was scratched from that one-mile overnight turf stakes.

“I’d thought that was probably too quick back for him, and he could use the extra week,” said Pierce. “It looks like we made the right decision.”

Arrow’s Conquest certainly kept things interesting, however, as he had to battle back in deep stretch to prevail by a nose under rider Patrick Husbands.

A claim of foul against Arrow’s Conquest by the third-place finisher was disallowed.

“Going in, I thought he’d win pretty easily,” said Pierce. “He had to survive a photo, and an inquiry.”

Pierce has no immediate plans for Arrow’s Conquest.

“I’m in no hurry,” said Pierce. “If I had to wait four or five weeks to run him back, it wouldn’t matter to me.

“I’d really like to get him on the grass.”

Posh Shot rallied to take her five-furlong debut by three-quarters of a length with Da Silva in the irons.

“She’d always trained okay, and Eurico had worked her a couple of times,” said Pierce.

“The timing is good. She could come back in the Nandi.”

The $125,000 Nandi, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies, will be run here Aug. 8.

Posh Sox is a half-sister to Double Malt, who enjoyed a productive 3-year-old campaign but was well-beaten in her 2010 debut and has been retired.

“She’d had surgery on both knees last fall,” said Pierce. “The next day after her first race back, she wasn’t that good. She’s been too good to us to mess around with her.”

Double Malt won four restricted stakes during her 15-race career, including three in a row last summer, and earned $387,550.

Cognashene may prep for Breeders’ in Toronto Cup

Cognashene, another 3-year-old who has won for Pierce at the meeting, is pointing for the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes here Aug. 15.

The Breeders’, a 1 1/2-mile turf race, is the final leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Cognashene, who began his career at Fair Grounds in February, recorded his first win when trying 1 1/2 miles of turf in his fifth start here July 2.

He is nominated to the $150,000 Toronto Cup, an open 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds here July 24.

“Timing-wise, that gives us three weeks from his last race and three weeks to the Breeders’,” said Pierce. “If we want to race him between now and the Breeders’, that could be our only option.”

Hall of Fame tickets available

Tickets the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony have gone on sale.

The single-ticket price for the Aug. 19 gala and fund-raising event is $150. Tables of eight are available at a cost of $1,500, which includes a $300 donation to the Hall of Fame.

The event will take place at the nearby Mississauga Convention Centre.

To purchase tickets or for more information, go online to horseracinghalloffame.com or call event coordinator Stacie Roberts at (416) 230-5190 or info@aimcreative4u.com