11/22/2002 1:00AM

Santerra seeks third stakes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - After detecting a speed-favoring track, Todd Kabel decided to take the bull by the horns when he rode Santerra on Oct. 30 in the South Ocean Stakes.

Kabel sent Santerra, normally a stalker, directly to the front in the 1 1/16-mile race, and Santerra was never seriously threatened en route to an easy victory.

Kabel will be back aboard Santerra on Sunday at Woodbine, when she shoots for her third stakes triumph in the $160,200 Ontario Lassie Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies.

In her fourth career start, Santerra won her maiden in the seven-furlong Muskoka Stakes, for graduates of local yearling sales. Two starts ago, she ran five wide on the clubhouse turn en route to a third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth Stakes.

"Those early races were too short for her," trainer Mike Mattine said. "She's a big, strong filly, and she's bred to go long. We knew she'd be a better horse going two turns."

Mattine said he was surprised to see Santerra on the lead in the South Ocean.

"I didn't think she was going to be that close to the pace, but that's where Todd wanted her," he said. "I guess he thought she was just much the best."

With recent injuries to nominees Kabeeb and Cream Rises, only five others were entered in the Lassie - Brattothecore, Florence, Kabul, Fancy Drinks, and Deputy Cures Blues.

Deputy Cures Blues, who will wear blinkers, ran against the bias in the South Ocean, finishing second after a three-wide journey in her first venture around two turns. She won her first two starts, and then ran second in the Victorian Queen Stakes. She is trained by Tino Attard.

Brattothecore graduated in her first start in a five-furlong dash for $62,500 maidens on Oct. 16. She came from off the pace to win by length. Trainer John Ross is optimistic that she won't disgrace herself in this acid test.

"I'm going to give her a chance," Ross said. "It's a small field, and she's bred to go long. She came from out of it in her race, and I think she wants to go long. She might have a chance for some black type.

"She's a pretty good-sized filly. She's well put together. I bought her off of John Atto for $55,000 from a 2-year-old sale. I've had good luck with her sire, Katahaula County, who has a good record out west."

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