04/09/2002 11:00PM

Platel latest volley from Armata's armory


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Vito Armata had a career meeting here at Woodbine in 2001, sending out 34 winners for purses of $1,450,733.

And the 52-year-old Armata certainly shows no signs of slowing down this season, with his five wins putting him in a tie for the lead and purses of $210,280 ranking him second in that category heading into the fourth week of the meeting.

"It's my best start ever," acknowledged Armata, who recorded his most important success of the young season with Platel, the wire-to-wire winner of the Star Shoot Stakes here last Saturday for owner Gino Molinaro.

Armata, who emigrated from Sicily in 1964 and is in his 21st year as a licensed trainer, followed his usual regimen this past winter.

"I just gave the horses a rest," said the trainer, who does not ship south during the off-season, "and came in the last week of January.

"Things are just falling into place."

A case in point was Platel, who seemed likely to become involved in a speed duel in the Star Shoot, her seasonal bow, but instead opened up a clear lead through a fast half-mile before hanging on for her second career stakes win.

"In a way, I was surprised," said Armata. "The way the horse has been working, she's just been taking it easy. But the way she is in the afternoon, when the gates open she's a different horse."

Armata is unsure about his next move with Platel, who is a Florida-bred and has limited options locally. The next stakes for the open 3-year-old filly division is the Grade 1 Selene here May 20, but that race is contested at 1 1/16 miles.

"It would be nice, but I don't believe we're going to do that again at this stage of the game," said Armata, who had watched Platel falter to finish in a dead heat for fourth in her only start around two turns, the Mazarine here last year.

"We'll just have to wait and see if there's a race for her here. Otherwise, she may have to go out of town."

Queenston the goal for Molly's Wisdom

Molly's Wisdom, also a stakes winner last year at 2 for Armata and Molinaro, was entered in the Achievement here March 31 but was scratched.

"He didn't come up right for the race," said Armata, "so I spoke to Mr. Molinaro, and we made the decision not to run him."

Molly's Wisdom is nominated to the six-furlong Woodstock here April 20 but Armata is not overly enthused about contesting that open race.

"It's unlikely," said the trainer, "but we'll see what happens. He's in good order now, anyway. He'll be there for the fourth of May, if everything goes well."

The May 4 reference is to the Queenston, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Family value

Armata also sent out Regal Mister to win for Molinaro here opening day, with his other three winners coming for the Alpine Stable of his brother, John Armata, and family.

The family connection runs even deeper as Vito Armata's sons, William and Peter, both work for him here at Woodbine. And while his wife, Enza, is not officially part of the outfit, the trainer points out that she plays an important role.

"She's one of my biggest supporters," he said.

Wake at Noon maturing well

Emile Ramsammy, who rode Platel, also is off to an auspicious start with a meet-leading 12 wins and $544,529 in purses.

Ramsammy completed a stakes double here last Sunday with Wake at Noon, a 5-year-old horse who won the Jacques Cartier for the second consecutive season after capturing the opening-day Briartic for owner Bruno Schickedanz.

"I was very pleased with the way he ran," said trainer Abraham Katryan of Wake at Noon.

Katryan believes the horse has developed an ideal running style for sprints.

"He's taught me that as he gets older, he's doing things a little bit differently," said Katryan. "He can break on top and position himself, then kick on at the end."

Katryan also notes that Wake at Noon has responded to stronger handling in his races this year.

"We'd thought we had a push-button horse," said the trainer. "But now he wants to be aroused aggressively, and it doesn't seem to take anything out of him. He came back really good."

Next up for the older male sprint division is the Vigil, a seven-furlong handicap here April 27.

* Jim Mazur, the Florida-based handicapper and author, will be at Woodbine this Saturday and Sunday to host a pair of free one-hour seminars beginning at 11 a.m. on the second floor east of the food court. Mazur will be joined by Jim Bannon, Woodbine handicapper and television host.