10/10/2007 11:00PM

Russell playing it safe with House Mouse

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Monica Russell, who checked in last week from Alberta, isn't wasting any time testing the waters here at Woodbine.

House Mouse, a winner of 2 of 3 starts at Northlands Park this summer, has been entered in Saturday's $125,000 Bull Page, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired 2-year-old colts and geldings.

Russell also had considered entering House Mouse in Sunday's $250,000 Cup and Saucer, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds, but opted to stick with the more modest goal.

"He wants to run long," said Russell, who trains House Mouse for owner Norm Castiglione. "But I don't know if he wants to run long on turf, in that tough of company."

Russell, 42, was a longtime exercise rider who had dabbled in the training game, sending out 11 starters in 2001 and four in 2003.

But she made the switch for keeps in 2004 after becoming part-owner of Ol Fifty, a stakes-caliber runner whom she had galloped and whose trainer decided to retire.

Knight's Covenant, who upset the $125,000 Alberta Derby at Stampede Park in the spring of 2005 for owner Robert Vargo, was Russell's first stakes winner.

House Mouse, who won Northlands Park's $75,000 Canadian Juvenile at one mile in his last start on Sept. 3, was her second.

A $30,000 buy at Woodbine's select yearling sale, House Mouse had debuted with a victory at 3 1/2 furlongs at Northlands on July 15 but then was a distant sixth there in the 6 1/2-furlong Birdcatcher three weeks later.

"We really don't know what happened to him there," said Russell. "It was a dismal performance.

"Otherwise, he's done everything we've asked him to do."

Strong Ontario contingent

House Mouse was one of four Russell-trained runners eligible for the Cup and Saucer, along with Himself the Elf, Mr. Slate, and Its Launch Time.

"We've bought heavily in the Ontario market at the last two sales," said Russell, who had 18 horses under her care at Northlands and expects that total to bulge to about 30 next year.

Joining House Mouse on his trip east were Himself the Elf and Northern Silence, a 3-year-old.

Himself the Elf, owned by Vargo, also was a winner first crack out going 3 1/2 furlongs at Northlands and finished on the fringes in two subsequent first-level allowance starts there.

Northern Silence, owned by Vargo in partnership with Art Zasadny, has compiled a record of 2-4-7 from 16 starts, none of which came with a claiming price.

Leonnatus Anteas in tough spot

Leonnatus Anteas, who is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 22, will get a major test here Saturday as he faces older rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Durham Cup.

"He came out of the Super Derby in good order," said Kevin Attard, who trains Leonnatus Anteas for Knob Hill Stable and the Estate of Steve Stavro.

"He bounced out of the trip well, handled everything good."

Leonnatus Anteas was undefeated in three starts at 2, all in stakes company, but had problems over the winter that delayed his return, and he had to be scratched on the eve of the Queen's Plate when he came down with an infected pastern.

Although Leonnatus Anteas also faced older rivals in his first three starts here this season, those came over sprint distances, and he will be conceding experience to his foes at Sunday's trip.

"Obviously, I'd prefer to run against 3-year-olds in order to get him back on track," said Attard. "But you either leave for the few straight 3-year-old races left or you run in your own back yard against older horses.

"It's mid-October, and sooner or later you have to run against them anyway."

Attard also believes that the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Super Derby, which was the first start around two turns for Leonnatus Anteas this season and the second of his career, has played an important role in advancing the colt's conditioning.

"It's definitely a big bonus," said Attard. "He was extra-tired after that race. I'm hoping he'll definitely improve off that."

Meanwhile, Attard is aware that the Durham Cup could have Sovereign Award implications for Leonnatus Anteas.

"The 3-year-old category is up in the air," said Attard. "It's in the back of my mind that if this horse steps up and beats older horses in this race, he might be back in with the voters again."

Attard already trains one candidate for 3-year-old colt or gelding honors in Alezzandro, who finished second in the Queen's Plate and won the Prince of Wales Stakes.

Mike Fox, the Queen's Plate winner, also figures to attract serious support.

Siwa done for the year

Attard also reported that Siwa, winner of two stakes and $189,080 this season, is headed for the farm and will not see action again this season.

"She's had a tough campaign," said Attard. "In her last race, she ran as hard as she could for as far as she could.