06/23/2005 11:00PM

Realistic spot for Stag Nation

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Burst of Fire (outside) runs in the Singspiel Stakes on Sunday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - In many other years, a horse with the credentials of Stag Nation would have been given a crack at the $1 million .

But this Sunday, Stag Nation will be running in the $110,000 Charlie Barley, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds which along with the 1 1/2-mile Singspiel is one of two open overnight turf stakes on the supporting program.

Stag Nation finished fifth in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial before being moved up a notch via a disqualification, and trainer Danny Vella thought long and hard about a Plate appearance.

"It's hard to pass up a race like the Plate, but it's a very tough field and I don't know if I could break into the top five," said Vella. "The horse likes the turf, and a mile suits him very well. I've got to go where he fits best."

Stag Nation was 2 for 4 on the turf here last year, winning his maiden at seven furlongs and an allowance race at one mile.

Lakeville Rush, winner of 3 of his 6 career outings, also will attract plenty of support in the Charlie Barley.

Bred in Florida, Lakeville Rush tried turf here for the first time in his last start June 8, coming from just off the pace to score in a second-level allowance at seven furlongs.

"He's shown he can be versatile now," said Dave Dwyer, trainer and co-owner of Lakeville Rush. "I think a mile is the distance he wants, and this race should set up nicely for him."

Gamblers Slew, also 1-for-1 on turf, has been entered in both the Charlie Barley and the day's main supporting feature, the Highlander Handicap.

Singspiel draws a crowd

The only previous running of the Singspiel took place on Queen's Plate Day in 1997 and was won by Crown Attorney.

Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president, Thoroughbred racing, admits he took a calculated risk in reviving the Singspiel.

Evans reasoned that a 1 1/2-mile turf race, which involves a complete circuit of the E.P. Taylor turf course, begins right in front of the grandstand and should be very popular with the Plate Day crowd.

But Evans also was aware that running the extended distance this early in the meeting could produce a short field.

When entries were drawn Thursday the Singspiel was a hit, with a field of 11 and a purse of $111,000.

Mark Frostad, whose Sam-Son Farm contingent is well stocked with turf performers, has given the Singspiel assignment to Burst of Fire.

Burst of Fire thrives at the distance but has started just once this season, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Connaught Cup over 1 1/16 miles of turf here May 29.

"Hopefully, he'll be tight enough," said Frostad.