10/28/2010 4:39PM

Rough season for Points of Grace


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Points of Grace concluded a championship campaign here last season with a half-length victory in the $100,000 River Memories over a mile on turf. And while a second straight Sovereign Award in the filly/mare turf category would seem to be beyond her reach, Points of Grace should be a going concern in the River Memories.

"We got behind the eight ball with her down in New Orleans this winter - she had trouble with a hind ankle," said Malcolm Pierce, who trains Points of Grace for Live Oak Plantation. "We've been playing catch-up. Obviously, she hasn't had the same year as last year. Maybe it's not so much that she's lost a step as that it's a little stronger division."

Points of Grace is coming into the River Memories off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Canadian, which was won by the Breeders' Cup-bound Miss Keller.

Patrick Husbands retains the mount aboard Points of Grace, whose only win in four starts this year came in the allowance prep for the Canadian.

The River Memories, an overnight stakes, attracted a full field of 14, including four shippers from south of the border.
The most surprising of these is Fantasia, who was beaten just three-quarters of a length as the fourth-place finisher in Keeneland's Grade 1 First Lady over one mile on turf last time out. Jonathan Sheppard trains Fantasia for George Strawbridge Jr., who also owns the locally based River Memories contender Sugar Bay.

Trained by Mac Benson, Sugar Bay was a sharp winner of the Belle Geste over seven furlongs of turf in her last start.

Rosie Napravnik has been named on Fantasia, while Jim McAleney replaces the suspended Luis Contreras on Sugar Bay.

Never Retreat, trained by Chris Block, and Sweeter Still and Ansong, both trained by Michael Trombetta, are the other River Memories invaders.

Currently based at Hawthorne, Never Retreat is coming off back-to-back stakes wins over a mile on turf in the Lady Canterbury at Canterbury Park and the Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs. Eduardo Perez has the mount.
Sweeter Still, who has been training at Monmouth Park, ran fifth in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel over one mile on turf at Belmont last time out. Justin Stein gets the call.

Ansong, based at Fair Hill in Maryland, won a 1 1/16-mile turf race while competing under third-level allowance terms at Laurel last time out. Gerry Olguin picks up the mount.

The other leading Woodbine-based candidate for the River Memories is Magic Broomstick, who finished a nose ahead of Points of Grace when third in the Canadian.

Chantal Sutherland retains the mount on Magic Broomstick for trainer Mark Frostad.

Maidens pack Princess Elizabeth

Lucky Be Me and Isabella Bay are the only winners in Saturday's $250,000 Princess Elizabeth, a 1 1/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies that attracted a field of 10.

While Lucky Be Me is the more accomplished of the pair, having won a pair of races, including the Muskoka Stakes, Isabella Bay is the only contestant who has been successful around two turns.

And that, according to trainer Ian Howard, is what prompted him to enter Isabella Bay in the Princess Elizabeth instead of awaiting the $125,000 South Ocean for Ontario-sired fillies at the same distance here Nov. 10.

"If she improves a little bit, I think she'll be right there," said Howard. "As well as she's doing, running for $250,000 makes sense."

Isabella Bay, a half-sister to stakes winner Resentless, finished fourth in her 4 1/2-furlong debut here May 30 and then went to the sidelines.

"I didn't want to run her back at four and a half furlongs," said Howard. "Then she got a virus. I waited for that to clear up, then she popped a curb."

Isabella Bay returned to action on Aug. 27, finishing seventh at five furlongs, then was an encouraging third over seven furlongs two weeks later. But it was her last start, in which Isabella Bay stretched out to a mile and 70 yards for a restricted maiden race on Sept. 26, that saw the filly come into her own.

"The two turns gave her a chance to settle early and relax," said Howard. "It really did help her."

Apprentice gets first win

Apprentice rider Cassandra Garcea recorded her first career victory here Wednesday night, coming from just off the pace to score by 2 1/4 lengths with Blushing Brat ($19.30) in the eighth and final race on the card.

Blushing Brat was the seventh mount at Woodbine and the 15th overall for the 28-year-old Garcea, who began her career with a second-place finish aboard Bold Storm at Fort Erie on Oct. 4.

"It was very exciting," said the 28-year-old Garcea, daughter of the late trainer Eric Garcea. "I'm loving it -- I enjoy the business a lot. But I never thought I'd be on the racetrack -- I always thought I'd be show-jumping."

Garcea had worked with show horses in Vancouver up until about five years ago, when she followed her father east to Woodbine.

"I'd never galloped horses until I came here," said Garcea. "I worked for Reade Baker, and went on the road a bit with his stakes horses -- Fatal Bullet, Bear Now, Kentucky Bear."

Garcea went on to work as an exercise rider and assistant to trainer Chad Brown in New York and Florida and returned to Woodbine this spring with her sights set on becoming a jockey.

In July, Garcea hooked up with agent Don Parente, who also represents leading rider Eurico Rosa da Silva.
"It's what I've wanted to do, for the past couple of years," said Garcea, who plans to gallop horses at Gulfstream over the winter in preparation for a full campaign here in 2011.

Pachattack breezes for Maple Leaf

Pachattack, the English invader who was beaten 3 3/4 lengths as the fifth-place finisher in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, breezed seven furlongs in 1:29.60 on the main track here Thursday in preparation for next Saturday's Maple Leaf Stakes.
trainer Gerard Butler looking on and Chantal Sutherland in the irons, Pachattack was clocked in 1:03.60 for her first five furlongs and galloped out one mile in 1:44.

The Maple Leaf Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares, offers a purse of $175,000.

◗ Jim Mazur will be at Woodbine on Saturday to host a Breeders' Cup seminar beginning at 11 a.m. on the third floor of the grandstand.

Free copies of Mazur's "Crushing the Cup" will be available.