09/27/2007 11:00PM

Sahara Heat returns for Ontario Derby

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sahara Heat, who shipped up from Keeneland to take the Grade 3 Marine Stakes this spring, will be back at Woodbine for Sunday's Ontario Derby.

The $150,000 Ontario Derby, an open 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, will have Sovereign Award implications for leading contenders Alezzandro and Mike Fox. Sahara Heat, owned by Darley Stable and based at Saratoga with trainer Eoin Harty, will be looking to play the spoiler.

"He's training well, and this looks like a good spot to run back in," said Harty. "He ran well up there."

Sahara Heat, a son of A.P. Indy, was a 1 1/4-length winner of the Marine, leading throughout the 1 1/16 miles on a moderate pace.

"He seems to like to run close to the pace," said Harty. "I expect him to be forwardly placed again."

Sahara Heat, a $3.4 million yearling purchase, was scoring his third straight win in the May 19 Marine but has been well beaten in two subsequent starts.

Resurfacing six weeks after the Marine at Prairie Meadows for the 1 1/8-mile Iowa Derby, Sahara Heat was never in the hunt and finished a distant eighth.

Sahara Heat had an excuse for his eighth-place finish at Saratoga on Aug. 6, as he was moving to the lead early in Saratoga's Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf when disaster struck.

"He was running very well, and his outside rein broke," said Harty. "From there, it was a matter of survival."

Sahara Heat came out of the experience alive and well, and Patrick Husbands, the leading stakes-winning rider here, has picked up the mount for the Ontario Derby.

Harty will be looking for his fourth win in five starts at Woodbine, having sent out Unification to win a maiden race and the Grade 3 Grey here in 2005.

Marietta shipped up with Sahara Heat this spring and finished third in the following day's Selene Stakes.

Two stakes winners among 2-year-old nominees

There will be stakes action here Wednesday evening as Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies meet in the $125,000 Victorian Queen at six furlongs.

The Victorian Queen attracted 14 nominees, with stakes winners Simple Sister and Executrix heading the prospective lineup.

Authenicat, an impressive allowance winner last time out, and Lady d'Wildcat and Miss Juicey, both maiden winners in their only starts, also are among those pointing to the race.

There will be no racing this Thursday, as is the case on all Thursdays preceding holiday Mondays.

On Saturday, Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies will clash in the $150,000 Carotene, a 1 1/8-mile turf race that attracted just 10 nominees.

Roger Attfield, who trained the Canadian champion and Hall of Famer for whom the race is named, will be looking to bring home the Carotene trophy with Sans Souci Island.

Others eyeing the Carotene include Dance to My Tune, who won last Saturday's La Lorgnette and would be trying turf for the first time, and Saskawea, who has not seen action since July 28 but is back in training following a couple of recent setbacks.

The Mt. Sassafras, a $75,000 overnight stakes for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward, will be Saturday's headliner provided that at least five separate betting interests are entered.

Just Rushing, winner of last year's seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras, is among the nominees.

A stakes doubleheader comprising the $250,000 Grey and the $125,000 Classy 'n Smart will be on tap for Monday's Thanksgiving Day program, the last holiday card of the meeting.

Turf War, winner of the seven-furlong Swynford here last time out, is among the 19 nominees for the Grade 3, $250,000 Grey, a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds.

Mark Casse, who trains Turf War, won last year's Grey with Skip Code.

Other locally based horses with designs on the Grey include Cool Gator, who overcame trouble to win his maiden at a mile and 70 yards in his second career start for trainer Danny Vella.

Financingavailable, winner of last year's Classy 'n Smart for Ontario-sired fillies and mares, will be looking to defend her title and aid her case for a second straight Sovereign Award in her division.

The 1 1/16-mile Classy 'n Smart attracted 11 nominees.

Pinto grabs her first win at Woodbine

Melanie Pinto recorded her fourth career win and her first here at Woodbine aboard Silver Foxtrail ($29.20) in Thursday's eighth race and promptly hung up her tack in order to preserve her apprentice allowance for next spring.

Pinto, 26, rode her first two races here on Aug. 23 and Sept. 6 and then scored three straight wins at Fort Erie.

Silver Foxtrail, trained by Harold Ladauceur, was the 10th career mount at Woodbine and 14th overall for Pinto.

Alan Raymond, who also books mounts for journeymen Martin Ramirez and Garry Cruise, is Pinto's agent.