09/15/2002 11:00PM

Rest proves critical for Heyahohowdy


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Norm DeSouza was convinced that a busy schedule, and not the switch from turf to dirt, had been the reason for Heyahohowdy's disappointing effort here in the July 31 Eternal Search.

The trainer was sticking to that story Monday morning after Heyahohowdy, who was making her first start in more than six weeks, showed no signs of weariness, skipping over the soft going under regular rider Shane Ellis en route to a dominating score in the La Prevoyante on Sunday.

"I think she was a little tired going into that last race," said DeSouza, who was sending out Heyahohowdy for the third time in the month of July in the Eternal Search. "I know she's not only a turf horse."

Despite his confidence in Heyahohowdy's versatility, DeSouza admitted to some concern over the conditions here Sunday.

"I was a little bit nervous going in," said the trainer. "I know she prepared properly for the race, but soft turf you can never really plan for."

Heyahohowdy, who races for the S.V.G.B. Stable of Sundar Kanagamany, was making her sixth start after beginning her career in May. It was her second stakes score.

The filly had captured the Passing Mood over seven furlongs on turf here July 17, giving the 28-year-old Ellis his only previous local stakes win. Ellis was a leading rider on the Caribbean circuit before moving his tack here in 2001.

Both the Passing Mood and Eternal Search were Ontario Sire Stakes, and Heyahohowdy now will be pointed for the $150,000 Carotene, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies here Oct. 14.

One other stakes winner

DeSouza, 56, experienced his only previous stakes successes here with Julie's Witt in 1999.

Julie's Witt, also Ontario-sired, registered back-to-back wins in the restricted Ontario Damsel and Passing Mood and had earned $374,919 when she was sent to the farm last winter.

DeSouza said that Julie's Witt had worked out a few times this year, "but one of her suspensories was a little bit funny, and I didn't want to break her down.

"She's been good to me; I wanted her to bow out gracefully."

Julie's Witt now is in foal to Pedigree Moon, a registered Ontario sire.

Success a long time coming

Before last Saturday's Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Handicap, not much had gone right in the life of Early Wisdom.

As a yearling, Early Wisdom had run through a fence on the farm, breaking a couple of vertebrae in his neck.

Last fall, Early Wisdom was coming up to the Coronation Futurity as one of the favorites but fractured a sesamoid in his left hind just four days before the 1 1/8-mile race, one of the premier tests for the division.

This spring, while the more talented members of his peer group were preparing for the Queen's Plate, Early Wisdom was spending most of his days in his stall here at Woodbine.

But those trials and tribulations took a back seat to the celebrations after Early Wisdom gave his trainer, Barb Pirie, her first stakes win, and his owner, Ken Ham, his first since Early Blaze captured the Etobicoke for the second straight time here in 1995.

Early Blaze, Ham's pride and joy, is the dam of Early Wisdom, the first horse whom Ham has owned in partnership with his son, Mike.

Both the senior Ham and Pirie stress that numerous parties contributed to Early Wisdom's successful return, beginning with the efforts of surgeon Mac Desjardins at Ontario's Aldershot clinic last fall.

Following the operation Early Wisdom was sent to the Schomberg Farm of his former trainer, Brian Ottaway, who also trained Early Blaze.

"He was stall-confined for two months," said Ham. "Then he walked for a month, and Brian galloped him for a month before he came back into the track the first of April.

"We'd kept him nominated to the Queen's Plate, but he just wasn't coming around; he wasn't the same horse."

Early Wisdom finally made it back to the races July 11, but was well beaten traveling six furlongs in first-level allowance company.

"It was disappointing," said Ham. "Then, Brian decided he wanted to take a sabbatical."

Enter Pirie, who observed Early Wisdom gallop a slow two miles and drew some rapid conclusions.

"He'd been protecting himself," said Pirie. "In the course of that he had a lot of muscle damage. He was compensating, and putting himself out of whack."

Fortified by vet work and acupuncture by Ken Coker and Mario Lopez, Early Wisdom returned at 1 1/16 miles Aug. 16 and finished an encouraging third under new rider Jake Barton.

"We got to breeze him a couple of times with Jake, and knew he still wasn't 100 percent," said Pirie.

"But we went ahead and put him in there, anyway. We knew we'd just have to improve him a little bit, and we'd have our horse back."

The final pieces of the puzzle fell into place in the four weeks leading up to the McLaughlin, as Early Wisdom worked three times, adding blinkers on the last two occasions.

"There'd been some hesitation in his first workout," said Pirie. "He didn't want to go up the fence.

"But after his final workout, when Jake got off him he said, "He's now perfect.'

"The horse has matured, in six weeks, from a little boy to a man."

Early Wisdom is slated to demonstrate his newfound maturity in the Oct. 5 Durham Cup Handicap, where he would be facing older horses while traveling over the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the McLaughlin.