04/14/2009 11:00PM

Plate hopes for Collerosa

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mike DePaulo enjoyed a relatively quiet but productive campaign at Gulfstream Park this year, with 3 wins and 4 thirds from 12 starters.

Now, DePaulo is looking to make some serious noise here at Woodbine, and he fired his first broadside when Collerosa prevailed in the quicker split of a five-furlong Ontario-sired maiden race last Sunday.

"He was a little bit of a surprise; five-eighths is probably too short for him," said DePaulo who trains Collerosa for owner Frank Romano.

Collerosa raced four times last year, becoming stakes-placed in the Cup and Saucer over 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf but then finishing 11th in the Kingarvie over 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.

"The owner would like to make the Plate with him," DePaulo said. "He may be just a come-from-behind sprinter, but we'll stretch him out and see how far he'll go."

The $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be run here June 21.

Khabibulin, third-place finisher in last fall's Coronation Futurity at 1 1/8 miles, also had long-term Queen's Plate aspirations but was injured in Florida this winter and is recuperating in Ocala.

Meanwhile, DePaulo has taken charge of a pair of Kentucky-bred 3-year-olds for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion, who has had all of his local runners to date with trainer Reade Baker.

Bear Always, a gelding who finished fifth in a five-furlong maiden race last Saturday, and Saint Bear, who graduated in his fourth and final start as a 2-year-old, have moved to the DePaulo shed row from the Baker barn.

High hopes for DePaulo's stakes winners

DePaulo has a trio of stakes winners in Deputiformer, Tenjectory, and Krz Exec.

Deputiformer, a 4-year-old gelding, won the Cup and Saucer in 2007 and finished fourth in last year's Queen's Plate.

"He's training very well," DePaulo said, noting that Deputiformer remains eligible for a second-level allowance. "He had a rigorous campaign last year."

Tenjectory, an Ontario-sired 4-year-old filly, won the restricted La Prevoyante over one mile of yielding turf here last September.

"I'm looking forward to getting her through a condition or two," DePaulo said. "She's probably better on grass and she's a bit of a plodder. The longer, the better."

Krz Exec, an Ontario-sired 4-year-old filly, won both the South Ocean and Ontario Lassie over 1 1/16 miles as a 2-year-old.

But after opening up with a win in the Ontario Damsel over 6 1/2 furlongs here last spring, Krz Exec disappointed in two subsequent starts before going to the sidelines.

"She had bleeding issues," DePaulo said. "We gave her the winter off. Hopefully, she's recovered."

El Brujo starts strong on path to Plate

El Brujo, a homebred owned by Windways Farm and trained by Malcolm Pierce, is named after an archaeological site in Peru.

But it doesn't take any digging to unearth El Brujo's status as a leading prospect for this year's Queen's Plate after the gelding romped to a 8 3/4-length victory in last Saturday's $150,800 Achievement.

The Achievement, a six-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds, is billed as the first local stakes stepping-stone to the Queen's Plate.

And while Pierce, who had been training El Brujo at the Fair Grounds over the winter, did not find the success unexpected, he was a little taken aback by the manner in which it was accomplished.

"I was a little surprised he won so easily," said Pierce, who watched the Achievement from his current headquarters at Keeneland while his wife and assistant, Sally, did the honors here.

"Nobody in there had had a race," he said. "I thought it would be hard-fought all the way. It left me scratching my head a little bit; is he that much better than those horses?"

Pierce will be looking to put that question to the test in the $150,000 Queenston, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds here May 2.

All remaining well, El Brujo would then proceed to the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial on May 31.

"If it looks like he'll stretch out for us, then he'd head for the Plate," Pierce said.

Quick turnaround for Double Malt

Pierce also has designs on the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies here June 7.

But the trainer is finding himself in a bit of a dilemma with Double Malt, an Ontario-sired filly who is his main Oaks hopeful.

Double Malt, who won the South Ocean last fall, wintered at Fair Grounds, but finished sixth when making her 3-year-old bow in the five-furlong La Voyageuse here April 4.

The remaining stakes preps for the Woodbine Oaks are the Star Shoot, an open six-furlong race here Sunday; the Fury, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies on May 3; the La Lorgnette, an open 1 1/16-mile race on May 17; and the Lady Angela, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies on May 23.

"I'll probably run her in the Star Shoot," Pierce said. "I don't like to run her in open company, but I need to run her there to go in the La Lorgnette, to get a two-turn race before the Oaks.

"If I have to run her back quickly, I'd rather do it now, than later."

Contreras to ride at Woodbine for Asmussen

Luis Contreras, a 22-year-old native of Mexico, has moved his tack to Woodbine.

Canadian immigration regulations will restrict Contreras to riding for American owners, and his main role will be to serve as the stable jockey for trainer Steve Asmussen's outfit.

Contreras registered his first local victory on April 10 with Merkel. Through the first five days of the meeting, he also has had 3 seconds and 2 thirds from a total of 8 mounts.

His win was the 248th of his career. Contreras, who rode his first winner in Mexico in fall 2002, has been racing in the United States since 2007.

Prior to heading north, Contreras was competing at New Mexico's Sunland Park, where he recorded 53 wins and will finish third in the standings.

Assistant trainer Hank Gensler, who took over as Asmussen's man on the spot here last October, is back in charge of the day-to-day operation this year.