05/08/2006 11:00PM

Sam-Son brigade getting in gear for Frostad


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mark Frostad has been taking his time with his Sam-Son Farm charges thus far this season.

After a quiet winter in Florida, where Frostad was based at the Palm Meadows training center and had just five starters and no winners at Gulfstream, the barn begin picking up the pace at Keeneland.

"We had a couple of wins and a couple of thirds," said Frostad, who saddled eight entrants at Keeneland. "And we got a few starts into horses that needed them."

Now Frostad is back in full force at Woodbine, with 44 horses under his charge.

And although the barn has not clicked here yet, its first nine starters recorded two second-place finishes and four thirds, and it's only a matter of time before Frostad is back in the winner's circle.

High Button Shoes, a 4-year-old filly, will be looking to give Frostad, Sam-Son, and jockey Todd Kabel their first stakes win of the season in Sunday's Grade 3, 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie for fillies and mares.

Bred in Kentucky, High Button Shoes was a very game second in her seasonal bow, the six-furlong Whimsical here April 16, and has worked well in the interim.

Sam-Son's Soaring Free, Canada's Horse of the Year in 2004, worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.20 here Monday and will be looking to get back into the groove at age 7.

After having his 2005 campaign cut short by physical problems last summer, Soaring Free returned in Keeneland's Grade 3 Shakertown on April 14 and finished a close sixth after breaking from post 1 in a field of 12.

Soaring Free's first major target here is the Grade 3, $200,000 Highlander, a six-furlong turf race on June 25 which he won during his last two campaigns.

But the most exciting of the Sam-Son divisions this year could be the 3-year-old fillies, with the Canadian-breds Feathered Diamond and Strike Softly and the Kentucky-bred Angel on Watch all shaping up as serious prospects.

Feathered Diamond, Strike Softly, and Angel on Watch all are nominated to the Grade 3, $250,000 Selene, a 1 1/16 mile race for 3-year-old fillies here May 21. The Selene is the final local stakes prep for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8 mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies on June 11.

Feathered Diamond saw action here just once at 2, finishing last of seven going seven furlongs. But in her return, at Keeneland on April 8, Feathered Diamond stretched out to 1 1/8 miles and led throughout.

Noting that Feathered Diamond came out of her lone start last year with a sore shin, Frostad said, "She'd been training forwardly this year but, frankly, I thought we were going to get a nice race into her and go from there."

Strike Softly made her seasonal bow in last Sunday's Fury, where she was a closing third.

"She got in a bit of trouble," said Frostad. "She got in behind horses. I think going longer's going to help her."

Strike Softly raced twice last year, finishing second to subsequent stakes winner Sugar Swirl at seven furlongs and then winning over the same distance.

Angel on Watch was the stable's other Keeneland winner, capturing a first-level allowance at seven furlongs.

Angel on Watch also started twice here at 2, winning at five furlongs and then finishing second, beaten a neck by Top Notch Lady, in the seven-furlong Glorious Song.

Casse duo heading back

Seaside Retreat and Top Notch Lady are heading back to Woodbine after spending some quality time with trainer Mark Casse and jockey Patrick Husbands at Churchill Downs last week.

Patrick Husbands rode Seaside Retreat and Top Notch Lady, both of whom are Kentucky-breds.

Seaside Retreat finished 10th of 20 following an eventful trip in the Kentucky Derby, beaten a total of 15 1/4 lengths.

"One thing about this horse is he's tough," said Casse. "He's not easily discouraged. I don't think this race is going to bother him.

"He beat a lot of good horses. I've said it all along: He's a really good horse."

Seaside Retreat is nominated to the Grade 3, $150,000 Marine, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds here May 20.

Casse, however, is eyeing greener pastures. The 1 3/16-mile Colonial Turf Cup, a $1 million race for 3-year-olds at Virginia's Colonial Downs on June 24, is Seaside Retreat's major target.

"That's kind of what we're aiming for right now," said Casse. "Whether there'll be anything in between, I don't know."

Top Notch Lady ended eighth of 14, beaten a total of 8 3/4 lengths, in the Kentucky Oaks.

Top Notch Lady came into the Kentucky Oaks off back-to-back stakes victories, having captured the Glorious Song here last November and the one-mile Bourbonette at Turfway Park this March, and is nominated to the Selene.

"We might take a shot there," said Casse. "We'll see how she trains the next little while. She's only run twice this year. If she does all right, that's going to be a good spot for her."

Berringer appealing suspension

Trainer Peter Berringer has appealed the 15-day suspension and $1,000 fine given to him for a positive test on one of his horses last fall. The suspension was to have run from May 11 through May 25 but is on hold pending the appeal process.

Impressaria, who finished second for Berringer in a six-furlong Ontario-sired maiden special here Nov. 19, tested positive for the prohibited substance Banamine, an anti-inflammatory medication.