04/13/2014 9:41AM

Ron Gierkink's Woodbine handicapping notebook for April 13

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Saturday, April 12 review

The riding stars on opening day of meet were Justin Stein and Jesse Campbell, who each bagged a triple on the 10-race card of mostly shorter sprints.

Stein captured races 2-4, all going five-eighths, from three different positions over a Polytrack that seemed to play fair throughout the afternoon. Favored Skyrish finally fulfilled some of the promise he displayed early in his career when took the second race by daylight after attending the pace while four wide in the Ontario-sired allowance.

Campbell picked up the baton in the seventh when he guided Cristina’s Halo to a 7 1/2-length score in a five-furlong Ontario-sired maiden special. Cristina’s Halo returned $23.30 after garnering a surprising amount of early money.

Campbell gave Cafe Au Lait a nifty come-from-behind ride to take the eighth by a nose over favored Big Belief, who had to wait for running room along the inside late on the turn. Cafe Au Lait earned a whopping $56,220 in the first-level allowance, thanks in part to a new 40 percent bonus for Ontario-sired horses who place in the top five positions in open company.

Campbell’s tentative ride on Tapit’s Brew in the ninth enabled Northern Hammer to secure a fairly easy lead en route to a nine-length tally in the $25,000 starter allowance. Northern Hammer, who was hammered down to 3-1 late, covered the seven-furlong distance in a sizzling 1:22.08. His trainer, Shane Learn, scratched entrymate Chief Thundercloud, who looked stronger on paper. Both had been running at Parx.

Trainer Mike DePaulo, who took some runners to Gulfstream in the off-season, won two races on the card, both with horses who wintered in Ontario. The DePaulo-trained Ida Bambina registered an 8-1 upset in the fourth, and could be headed to the $125,000 Lady Angela, a seven-furlong stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies here June 7.

Trainers who were expected to make some noise but didn’t included Darwin Banach, who was 0 for 5 with a second.
The overall handle of $2.7 million was down about 20 percent compared to last year’s opening day.

Sunday, April 13 preview

Heavy overnight rainfall at Woodbine could speed up the Polytrack, which won’t necessarily translate into a speed bias.
The first stakes of the meet, the $125,000 Jacques Cartier, has the significant scratch of Go Blue Or Go Home, who competed in Saturday’s Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland. One of his stablemates, the lightly raced 4-year-old Sharp Sensation, could shake loose on the lead in the six-furlong Cartier in his first appearance since romping in a first-level allowance (101 Beyer) here Dec. 14.

The front-running router Delegation is a vulnerable favorite in the Jacques Cartier, which will be his first outing since undergoing minor surgery following a fade job in the Oct. 6 Durham Cup Stakes. Winter-raced entrants Really Sharp and Victory Exchange are both in with a shot.

The best sequence of races is the last four, which make up a pick four.

The race prior to the Jacques Cartier, the seventh, seems wide open. Queen’s Plate hopeful Money Talks is meeting older Ontario-sired stock in the five-furlong allowance/NW3 claimer. Stormin Clooney, one of two entrants in for the $40,000 tag, is a threat to lead all the way.

Tu Avez can challenge at a square price in the ninth. Hennessy Dave and Spanish River are worth a look in the 10th.

In the fifth, leading trainer DePaulo sends out the speedy Bears Grace, who’s capable of making all the running under Stein in the five-furlong allowance for Ontario-sired non-winners of two.