06/09/2005 11:00PM

Plate hopefuls get final stakes prep


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sunday's $136,125 Victoria Park Stakes is the last stakes opportunity on dirt for local 3-year-olds to prep for the June 26 Queen's Plate. Canadian-breds Ablo, Walela, and Stephen's Gift are the only Plate eligibles in the Victoria Park, which is the supporting feature on Labatt Woodbine Oaks Day.

Ablo won the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity at 2 and will negotiate that distance in the Victoria Park. In his most recent outing, he finished fifth going 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes.

Trainer Roger Attfield said jockey Gerry Olguin regretted rating Ablo off a slow pace in the Marine. "He felt that he should have let him run instead of strangling him early," Attfield said.

Attfield said he didn't run Ablo in the June 5 Plate Trial Stakes because he wanted a two-week gap between the Plate and Ablo's final prep. "For the amount of racing he's had this year, I felt more comfortable going three weeks between races with him and then two weeks," Attfield said.

Walela, a Regal Classic colt, won his debut going 6 1/2 furlongs on the grass June 2 for trainer Barb Minshall.

Stephen's Gift, a large son of Stephen Got Even, rallied wide to finish second over a track favoring speed and inside runners when he made his debut in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special May 27.

Attfield also entered the versatile Palladio, who won a 1 1/8-mile allowance over yielding turf at Keeneland in his penultimate start. Palladio finished third behind Unbridled Energy and Wholelottabourbon in the Marine after being fractious before the race.

"He was only beaten two necks and should have won it," Attfield said. "He totally messed up in the paddock, in the post parade, and at the gate. He washed out, and they couldn't get him in the gate. We've been working with him ever since."

Commander Pat has won his two most recent outings, in a maiden special at Mountaineer Park and against allowance company here May 23. Trained by Elliott Walden, Commander Pat has resided in Attfield's barn since his last tally.

One Smooth Ride won the Display Stakes at 2. He finished fifth in his season opener in a $62,500 optional claimer and seventh in the May 21 Marine.

Trainer Dave Cotey said he expects an improved effort from One Smooth Ride on Sunday.

"He's doing very well," Cotey said. "He should run a much better race than he did last time."