06/11/2009 11:00PM

Saskawea leads the way for Attard

Michael Burns
Costalivin, seventh in the Plate Trial, works Friday morning with Melanie Giddings up.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Steve Attard has high hopes for Keino West in next Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate.

But Attard's first order of business is this Sunday's $100,000 Zadracarta, and his stable star, Saskawea, should be the horse to beat in the six-furlong turf race for Ontario-foaled fillies and mares.

Saskawea won the Avowal, an overnight stakes at seven furlongs on turf here last Sept. 27, and finished up her campaign with a solid second-place finish in the Grade 3, seven-furlong Bessarabian on Nov. 23.

In her only outing this season, Saskawea was in touch early but flattened out to finish 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner in the Grade 3, 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie.

"She was one good work short," said Attard. "She definitely needed the race.

"Six furlongs is a little on the short side for her, but I think the grass will make up for it. She should be very tough in here - she's doing fantastic."

Jono Jones retains the mount on Saskawea, who is the 124-pound co-highweight.

The Zadracarta drew 10 entrants, but four of those - Bent Attorney, Executive Flight, Krz Exec, and London Snow - also were entered in Saturday's Ballade, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

With or without the presence of any member of that quartet, Saskawea's main rival in the Zadracarta figures to be Dance to My Tune, a 5-year-old trained by Mark Casse.

Dance to My Tune won a pair of stakes here for her former trainer, Dave Cotey, but was sold privately to Overbrook Farm last fall.

"She's training really well," said Casse. "I've been trying to run her, but nothing's really went for her."

After finishing sixth in her first start for her new connections, a fourth-level allowance at one mile on turf at Keeneland on Oct. 23, Dance to My Tune was given the winter off and returned with a close fourth-place finish in a classified allowance over the same distance and surface on April 18.

"Everything went against her that day," said Casse. "She probably should have won by a couple of lengths."

Dance to My Tune has never run in a race shorter than 6 1/2 furlongs, and Casse acknowledges that the Zadracarta distance could work against her.

"Can she get up going six furlongs?" asked Casse, rhetorically. "If the turf had a little give to it, that would help."

Costalivin works with Plate as goal

Costalivin worked six furlongs in 1:12 under apprentice jockey/exercise rider Melanie Giddings here Friday morning in his final tune-up for a possible appearance in the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate.

"He relaxed for the first part, and was strongest the last part of the work," said John Ross, who trains Costalivin for the Jam Jar Racing Stable of Bud and Jackie Reynolds. "If everything looks good, I'll go on to the Plate with him. I'm looking for him to tell me."

Costalivin is coming off a seventh-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, where he wound up on the lead through slow fractions and was beaten 6 1/2 lengths.

"It was hard for me to get a gauge on him, the way that race unfolded," said Ross. "In both races he won at a mile and a sixteenth, he came from off the pace. He likes to put in one run."

Ross has made some changes in Costalivin's equipment.

"I put a stronger bit on him," said Ross. "He can be too aggressive. This will help give his rider a little more control, and take him back off the pace."

Triactor takeouts changing

The Woodbine Entertainment Group will be adjusting its triactor takeout, effective Wednesday, with the rate on live races dropping from 28.3 percent to 27 percent.

Most live takeout rates here include 0.8 percent for the federal government, 0.5 percent for the provincial government, and 2 percent for the horsemen to be applied to purses. The exception is the triactor, where another 2 percent levy is added to fund Ontario's Horse Improvement Program.

"The triactor is our single largest pool," said Steve Mitchell, a senior vice president and the chief financial officer for Woodbine Entertainment. "It makes up 20.5 percent of our live Thoroughbred handle and 23 percent of our Thoroughbred simulcast handle."

While the live triactor rate is dropping, triactor rates for a number of simulcast locations that use the TrackNet group - a partnership between Magna Entertainment Corp. and Churchill Downs Inc. - as their negotiator will be increasing to 27 percent. Variable triactor takeout rates will continue to apply for other simulcast properties, beginning with 25 percent, but sometimes higher depending on the host track.

Mitchell said the takeout increases are necessary to help offset an increase of almost $1 million in new simulcast costs.

The tracks affected are Arlington Park, Thoroughbred sites in California, Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, and Pimlico. California regulations also mandate an additional 0.5 percent on their triactor pools.

CBC to air Queen's Plate documentary

The Woodbine Entertainment Group's broadcast department, in collaboration with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., has produced a documentary to mark the Queen's Plate's 150th anniversary.

"Queen's Plate: History, Heritage and Hope" was to air for the first time on Saturday on the CBC's main network and will be repeated on other networks on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Details are available on Woodbine's Queen's Plate website, queensplate.com.