08/24/2009 11:00PM

Prep for Mile prompts trainer's trip

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Wise River, based at Churchill Downs with trainer Clark Hanna, checked into Woodbine last weekend for Saturday's Play the King.

The Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King, a seven-furlong turf race for 3-year-olds and upward, is the major local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 20.

And Hanna, who trains Wise River for owner Don Penge, is hoping that the Play the King serves exactly that purpose.

"If he runs good here, we'll leave him here and run him in the Woodbine Mile," said the 42-year-old Hanna, who divides most of his year between Churchill and Fair Grounds, with occasional forays to other tracks throughout the United States.

The current trip, however, is Hanna's first to Woodbine, and Wise River will be his initial Canadian starter.

Wise River, with his exercise rider Julie Sheets in the irons, had his first gallop here on Tuesday morning.

"He seems to be acclimating well," said Hanna. "He likes the Polytrack."

Wise River joined Hanna's barn in the winter of 2008 after being purchased for $42,000 at the Keeneland January sale and became a stakes winner last fall in the Grade 3 Robert F. Carey Memorial over one mile on turf at Hawthorne.

After beginning his current campaign with a close third-place finish in the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley over 1 1/16 miles on turf at the Fair Grounds, Wise River shipped to Santa Anita for the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe.

Although he finished ninth in that one-mile turf race, which was won by the redoubtable Gio Ponti, Wise River was beaten just seven lengths after forcing the pace through the first seven furlongs.

"He bled on me that day," said Hannah. "But he came back and broke the track record in his next start at Churchill Downs."

Wise River, competing under the fourth-level allowance clause in an optional $100,000 claiming race, scored by 3 1/2 lengths after covering the 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:39.83 in that April 26 race.

In two subsequent outings, both at Churchill Downs, Wise River was beaten a nose when competing under the same terms in a one-mile turf race and then finished a faltering sixth when traveling the same distance over yielding ground in the Grade 2 Firecracker.

"When the rider went to push on him he was spinning his wheels," said Hanna. "He wasn't getting over the ground very well, and he just kind of eased up on him.

"The firmer the turf course, the better he likes it."

Stylish Citizen back home

Stylish Citizen arrived back at Woodbine on Tuesday morning following a flight from Edmonton, where he finished fourth under his regular rider, Jim McAleney, in last Saturday's Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park.

"When he got down there he adjusted well," said John Ross, who trains Stylish Citizen for the Casanova Stable of Max Berketa and Jim Boughton.

"Everything went perfect, until the gates opened. When he came out of the gate, the two beside him collided right into him, and knocked him right back. We had planned for him to be running in the first flight."

Stylish Citizen did make up some ground late to pick up fourth money of $18,000 in the 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby.

Stylish Citizen had come into the Canadian Derby off back-to-back wins here over fellow 3-year-olds in the mile-and-70-yard Charlie Barley and over older rivals under second-level allowance terms in a 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Awesome Rhythm to Ontario Derby

Awesome Rhythm, another stakes-winning 3-year-old in the Ross barn, is returning to the racetrack after getting a break following his fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby over 1 1/8 miles at Mountaineer Park on Aug. 1.

"I gave him 10 days on the farm, to freshen him up a bit," said Ross. "I'm aiming him for the Ontario Derby."

The Grade 2 Ontario Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race here Sept. 27, is the final stakes of the meeting for the male 3-year-old division.

Awesome Rhythm, owned by Domenic Triumbari, already has won three main-track stakes for 3-year-olds at the meeting, taking the 1 1/16-mile Wando, the 1 1/16-mile Marine and the 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park.

Costalivin to try grass

Costalivin became the third of the Ross barn's three stakes winners at the meeting when he captured the seven-furlong Deputy Minister over fellow Ontario-sired 3-year-olds here July 15.

Now, Ross is looking forward to trying Costalivin on turf for the first time in the $125,000 Vice Regent, a one-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds here Sept. 6.

Costalivin races for the Jam Jar Racing Stable of Bud and Jackie Reynolds, who also own the promising 2-year-old colt Grittani.

Winner of a restricted 4 1/2-furlong maiden dash in his second career start here June 28, Grittani was nominated to the seven-furlong Simcoe, one of six $125,000 yearling sales stakes here Sept. 7.

Grittani, however, instead will be pointed for the $125,000 Bull Page, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired colts and geldings here Oct. 12.

"I had to back him down a bit - he was a little shinny," said Ross. "At this point, I didn't want to run him seven furlongs anyway.

"He should be good and ready for the Bull Page."

Contest over the weekend

The entry box will close at 4 p.m. Friday for Woodbine's Thoroughbred Handicapping Challenge, a two-day contest here this weekend.

A $250 entry fee and $80 live bankroll will give contestants a shot at a possible total of $28,000 in prize money, and the top three finishers will earn a trip to Las Vegas for this winter's Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship.

The Woodbine event will be fully automated for the first time, with contestants purchasing an $80 account card to be used for contest wagers.

Complete details are available at woodbineentertainment.com or by phone at (888) 675-7223.