08/23/2007 12:00AM

Purim shortens up for Play the King


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Purim, based in Chicago with trainer Tom Proctor, checked into Woodbine on Thursday morning and looms as a serious contender in Saturday's $200,000 Play the King.

The Grade 2 Play the King, a seven-furlong turf race, is the major local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile here Sept. 16.

Purim will be making his first start since May 26, when he finished eighth in the Grade 3 Hanshin Handicap over one mile on Arlington's Polytrack.

"We actually did some throat surgery on him after that," Proctor said. "He's doing good now."

In his start prior to the Hanshin, Purim ended a close third in the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile on the turf at Keeneland, with the formidable Kip Deville and Showing Up the one-two finishers.

Proctor said he began looking at the Play the King as a spot for Purim early this month.

"I really don't even know the horses I'll be running against," Proctor said. "I just need to get a race into him and get him started up for the fall."

The Play the King also will be Purim's first try at seven furlongs on turf, but Proctor is not overly concerned by the distance.

"He usually goes farther," Proctor said. "But he ran a huge race when he finished second over seven-eighths at Tampa, where they set a track record. He's won going three-quarters, too."

As for the Woodbine Mile, Proctor is not necessarily pointing Purim in that direction.

"I'm really just going to run him in this race now, and we'll see how he comes out of it," Proctor said.

"The Mile would be a little closer than I'd like, especially off a comeback race where he'll have to run hard.

"He also ran good at Keeneland this spring, so we could go back there. We'll just see."

Proctor, who sent out Therecomesatiger to a sixth-place finish in last year's Woodbine Mile, will be starting his fifth runner here.

In 2002, the trainer sent out Bonus Pack to win the Dominion Day Handicap.

Jamie Theriot, who has ridden Purim in his last two outings, is scheduled to make his Canadian debut in the Play the King.

Bear Holiday tops Silver Deputy

Saturday's card also includes the $100,000 Silver Deputy and the $75,000 Belle Geste, both of which are overnight stakes and attracted fields of six.

Bear Holiday, coming off a rallying win in the six-furlong Colin, looms as the horse to beat in the Silver Deputy, an open race at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"He's good right now," said Reade Baker, who trains Bear Holiday for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion. "He's working super again."

Baker had considered shipping Bear Holiday to Saratoga for the Aug. 15 Adirondack.

"We thought this would be the more logical thing to do than worry about vanning and going away in the heat," Baker said. "The timing's perfect from here to the Swynford and to the Grey."

The $125,000 Swynford, a seven-furlong race, will be run here Sept.o15, with the Grade 3, $250,000 Grey going at 1 1/16 miles on Oct. 8.

Gerry Baird retains the mount on Bear Holiday, who drew favorably on the outside.

Stuck in Traffic, front-running winner of the six-furlong Vandal here Aug. 12, is the only other stakes winner in the lineup.

Nick Gonzalez trains Stuck in Traffic and David Clark retains the mount.

Bear Holiday and Stone Slinger, who is coming off a second-place finish in his debut, were supplemented to the Silver Deputy at a cost of $2,000.

Essential Edge finds easier spot

Essential Edge, competitive when facing the best of her division in two starts here this spring, will be the choice in the Belle Geste, a seven-furlong turf race for Ontario-foaled and mares.

Owned and bred by Chiefswood Stable and trained by Eric Coatrieux, Essential Edge is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race in which she was beaten by 2 1/4 lengths. Prior to that, Essential Edge finished third in the Grade 2 Nassau, beaten by 1 3/4 lengths over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

"It looks like an easier spot than what she's been in lately," Coatrieux said. "I'm just worried how she's going to handle the seven-eighths of a mile."

Essential Ridge's shortest turf races have been at one mile, and she won the Ontario Colleen at a mile here last September under jockey Jono Jones, who is back aboard for the first time this season.

Jones guided Essential Edge through a four-furlong breeze in 48.20 seconds on the training track turf course last Sunday.

Count to Three has run three times this year, including a fourth in the Grade 3 Royal North in her last start Aug. 6. Emma-Jayne Wilson, who has ridden Essential Edge in her last two starts, is sticking with Count to Three, whom she has piloted in 14 of her 17 outings.

* Woodbine also will be offering simulcast wagering on Saturday's $300,000 Canadian Derby from Northlands Park. The post time here for the Canadian Derby, a 1 3/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, will be 6:42 p.m.