10/26/2006 11:00PM

Rye on the Rocks a capable substitute


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Tusayan has been a going concern for trainer Laurie Silvera in the last three editions of Woodbine's Bunty Lawless, sandwiching a pair of wins around a second-place finish in 2004.

But when the nominations came out for this year's $125,000 Bunty Lawless, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward that will be run here Sunday, Tusayan was among the missing.

"He went wrong on me; I had to turn him out," said Silvera, who expects the gelding to return next year at age 7.

Silvera, however, has a new Bunty Lawless shooter in Rye on the Rocks, a 3-year-old gelding who has finished first or second in each of his last four outings.

"I figure he's a worthy substitute," said Silvera.

Rye on the Rocks, a homebred who races for Silverbrook Stable, managed just a second-place finish for a $32,000 claiming price in four starts at 2 but comes into the Bunty Lawless in an upwardly mobile mode.

Since finishing second in his turf debut at six furlongs here Aug. 16, Rye on the Rocks sports a pair of turf scores interrupted by a second-place Polytrack finish in his last three starts, all in Ontario-sired allowance company.

In his last outing, facing nonwinners of three at one mile on yielding turf, Rye on the Rocks was a convincing 1 1/2-length winner and earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 85.

"He won his last race looking like a good horse," said Silvera. "I think that gave him a pass into the Bunty Lawless. He certainly has improved. I think he's somewhat better on turf than he is on Polytrack."

Silvera says that the success of Rye on the Rocks is not surprising, considering his pedigree.

Rye on the Rocks is by Whiskey Wisdom out of Scarlet Chimes, who was a maiden in five starts for Silvera but is a half-sister to Freefourinternet, a multiple stakes winner of $1.1 million whose successes included the Grade 2 Kelso at one mile on turf.

"With those two going for him he's what he's supposed to be - a good horse," said Silvera.

O'Brien stops while she's ahead

Apprentice Catherine O'Brien guided Montana Rose ($8.60) to victory for trainer Tom O'Keefe here in Thursday's fourth race and promptly hung up her tack for the year in order to preserve her apprentice allowance.

Montana Rose was the fourth winner for O'Brien, who began her career in September. Her first win came at Fort Erie on Sept. 18, and her first at Woodbine on Oct. 13.

"Every ride I've been learning," said O'Brien, who is 26 years old and tacks 105 pounds. "Everybody's been nice about giving me pointers."

O'Brien, who will not compete this winter, will return with a 10-pound "bug" until she rides her fifth winner, and then will be able to ride with a five-pound allowance for one calendar year plus an extension to compensate for her offseason.

Born in Montreal, O'Brien spent her early years there before moving with her family to the Ontario border town of Cornwall.

"My mother was involved in distance endurance riding, mostly with Arabians," said O'Brien. "We always had two or three horses while I was growing up. I've been riding since I was 10 years old."

O'Brien's only experience was with show horses when she enrolled at Kemptville College, near Ottawa, for a two-year equine services program beginning in 1999.

"It was mostly geared toward jumpers," she said. "But Castle Peak Farm was about a half-hour from the college. I worked there on weekends; that was my first experience with Thoroughbreds."

After graduating, O'Brien came to Ontario and got a job working for trainer Roger Attfield at Kinghaven Farm, where she galloped horses before moving over to the racetrack.

After working as a groom for a year and spending the winter at Payson Park, O'Brien returned to Woodbine as an exercise rider in 2002.

That winter, O'Brien went to Fair Grounds and talked herself into a position as an exercise rider for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Trainer Mark Frostad also was in New Orleans that winter, on behalf of Sam-Son Farm.

"I knew I wanted to come back to Toronto," said O'Brien. "I asked Sam-Son if they needed someone, and started with them in 2003."

O'Brien gained confidence working as an exercise rider for Sam-Son, and her desire to become a jockey also was piqued by her friendship with Emma-Jayne Wilson.

"I never really felt I was ready, but then I started working horses, getting comfortable," said O'Brien. "And being roommates with Emma over the last two winters and seeing her success made me think more and more about it."

Earlier this season, jockey agent Gary Kemplen agreed to take O'Brien's book, and the two made plans for a September launch.

After spending last winter at Payson Park, O'Brien will return to New Orleans with Sam-Son this winter before resuming her career here next spring.

"I'm loving it," said O'Brien. "You never know how competitive you are until you get out there and you want to cross the wire first."

True Metropolitan in Sovereign bid

True Metropolitan, a 4-year-old Vancouver-based gelding who has been the top older male in British Columbia and Alberta this season, checked into Woodbine on Thursday and will attempt to command the attention of the Ontario balloters in the Sovereign Award voting.

A Florida-bred owned by Bob Cheema, True Metropolitan will be nominated to the Grade 3, $150,000 Woodbine Slots Cup, a 1 1/16-mile race Nov. 18.

The $125,000 Valedictory, a 1 3/4-mile race here on closing day, Dec. 10, also is on True Metropolitan's agenda but cannot influence the Sovereign Award voting - the ballots must be cast by Dec. 4.

True Metropolitan, a winner of four stakes at Northlands Park and two at Hastings for trainer Terry Jordan, will run here in the name of trainer Lorne Richards.

Bowden takes over for Colebrook

Phil England, who took over as private trainer for the Colebrook Farm of John Brnjas in late September, saddled his first winner for the outfit when Lake Warrior ($21.80) captured the ninth and final race here Thursday.

On Friday morning, England resigned his position and will return to operating a public stable. He was to saddle his last two starts for Colebrook on Friday.

Tom Bowden, who was licensed here recently and has had several Brnjas starters entered under his name, will take over as the Colebrook trainer here, with Ashlee Brnjas, the owner's daughter, acting as his assistant.

Bowden was Colebrook's ontrack trainer here prior to going public for three years. He then returned to the fold as the outfit's farm trainer for the past two years.

* Apprentice jockey Tyler Pizarro has switched agents and will now be represented by Kerri Beauclaire. Pizarro began his career in late August with agent Mike Luider, who represents Emma-Jayne Wilson.