08/02/2008 12:00AM

Seaside Retreat comes back strong


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Seaside Retreat will have the homefield advantage over American shippers Strike a Deal and Independent George in Monday's Grade 2, $300,000 Nijinsky Stakes at 1 1/4 miles over Woodbine's lush turf course.

Seaside Retreat was idle for more than a year prior to his spring campaign at Churchill, where he won a nine-furlong optional claimer before ending up second in the Opening Verse Handicap. He came from off a moderate pace to finish third here in his last turf start, the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes.

Trainer Mark Casse said Seaside Retreat has exceeded his expectations since returning from the sidelines.

"He's come back even better than I would have expected," Casse said. "He had two or three injuries. I wouldn't say they were serious, but they weren't minor, either. It's been nice to see him come back the way he has."

Seaside Retreat was prominent throughout the allowance prep for the Nijinsky, which was taken off the grass, and he prevailed by a head under Patrick Husbands in the 1 1/4-mile route.

"There was no pace in the race," Casse pointed out. "He likes some pace to run at. He's probably a better turf horse than anything else. Patrick says he's better on the turf. He's a very tough horse to train, because he has a mind of his own. That's one of the reasons I ran him in the prep. He really seems to thrive with racing."

Strike a Deal and Independent George finished second and fourth, respectively, in the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap on July 5 at Monmouth.

Strike a Deal earned back-to-back 102 Beyer Speed Figures in a pair of stakes at Belmont in the spring, most notably when he ran fourth in the Grade 1 Manhattan. He lost the United Nations by a neck after closing on the outside.

Jose Lezcano will ride Strike a Deal for trainer Alan Goldberg.

Independent George took the Sussex Stakes in his penultimate start at Delaware. Trainer Graham Motion felt Independent George was a little unlucky in the 11-furlong United Nations.

"Joe Bravo gave him a great ride, but he just couldn't get out in time," Motion said. "I'm not sure that he would have won, but he might have been a little closer had he been able to get out a little earlier. It was a good effort, considering it was a Grade 1 going that distance for the first time."

Cornelio Velasquez has the mount in the Nijinsky.