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Shaws Creek compares favorably to Catahoula Parish
ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The difference between the Plate Trial and the Queen's Plate can be a lot greater than three weeks and a furlong.
Just ask trainer John Ross, who sent out Catahoula Parish to win the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial for the Jam-Jar Racing Stable of Bud and Jackie Reynolds here in 1999 only to watch him finish seventh in the 1 1/4-mile Plate, which was worth $500,000.
Ross and the Reynoldses, also the connections of this year's Plate hopeful Shaws Creek, are well aware that the last horse to win both the Trial and the Plate was Alydeed in 1992.
Still, they can't be anything but optimistic after Shaws Creek tuned up for the June 23 Plate, now worth $1 million, with a solid score over 10 rivals here in last Saturday's Trial.
"He had some things to prove," said Ross, at trackside here Monday morning. "The farthest race he'd ever had was seven furlongs, and he carried 126 pounds for the first time.
"I'm not going to stand here and say I'm the Queen's Plate winner, but you've got to love what he's done so far."
Shaws Creek started out his 3-year-old campaign with a closing third-place finish in the six-furlong Achievement and came back five weeks later to run down the speed in the seven-furlong Queenston.
Still, Ross knows the inevitable comparisons between Shaws Creek and Catahoula Parish will surface time and again in the days leading up to the Plate.
"They're two different types of horses," he said. "Catahoula Parish was a lovely little horse, but when you look at Shaws Creek's form, he's more consistent.
"And Catahoula Parish wouldn't relax as much. You'd always like to get him just off the pace, but he wouldn't take as kindly to it as this horse does."
Ross and the Reynoldses will looking to capture another local 3-year-old stakes with Tails of the Crypt, a Kentucky-bred who should be favored here in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park.
The $125,000 Victoria Park, an open race, is the supporting feature to the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks and the last local stakes stepping-stone to the Queen's Plate.
Cree Power, who worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 here Monday, and Forever Grand, who prepped five furlongs in 59.80 seconds last Saturday, are Canadian-breds who are looking to the Victoria Park as their Plate "trials."
Gonetofarr, one of the leading contenders in the prospective field of nine for the Oaks, breezed six furlongs in 1:14.40 on the main track Monday under her regular rider, Jim McAleney.
"I was extremely happy with the work," said Reade Baker, who trains Gonetofarr for owner George Farr. "She's ready."
Fillies sharpen up for Oaks
Ginger Gold, who will vie for favoritism with Gonetofarr in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile Oaks for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, breezed five furlongs in 1:00 on the training track Sunday under jockey Richard Dos Ramos.
"She went a little fast in the beginning, but she still worked good," said Sid Attard, who trains Ginger Gold for Mel Lawson's Jim Dandy Stable.
Mulrainy, who also will have her share of Oaks supporters, worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 on the main track Saturday under jockey Chantal Sutherland.
"She did it well in hand, and she galloped out extremely strong," said Tom O'Keefe, who trains Mulrainy for the Wings of Erin Farm of Les Roberts.
Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad will be seeking their third straight Oaks score with Distant Roar, who worked six furlongs in 1:12.80 Saturday on the training track. Frostad won the Oaks with Catch the Ring in 2000 and Dancethruthedawn last year.
"She worked very well," said Frostad, who was surprised to see Distant Roar outfoot older stablemate Spicy Prospector, who was clocked in 1:13.80.
Distant Roar will be racing for the first time under Laurie Gulas, who was aboard for the drill. "She worked her at the Fair Grounds," said Frostad. "She knows the filly well."
Trainer David Bell, who won his first stakes of the meet with Lush Soldier here in last Saturday's Alywow, sent his three Oaks candidates out for main-track tune-ups Saturday.
Tacky Affair, under jockey Emile Ramsammy, and Silver Nithi, with Mickey Walls up, worked in company, with Tacky Affair timed in 1:12.80 after breaking off behind Silver Nithi, who finished in 1:13.80.
Halo Alfaari, going on her own, drilled five furlongs in 59.60 under Todd Kabel.
"I was on the fence with Halo Alfaari," said Bell, who also is co-owner of the filly. "But when Kabel worked her he said he just loved her, and wanted to ride her in the Oaks."
Tacky Affair is owned by Mike and Nick Nosowenko, while Silver Nithi races for Dick and Jo Ellen Shaw.
Bright Knight, who is heading into the Oaks off a first-level allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on the main track last Saturday under her trainer and part-owner, Gail Casselman.
"I was very happy with her," said Casselman. "She worked with a couple of other horses - she worked well, and galloped out strong."
Robert Landry, who piloted Bright Knight to her maiden win here last fall, will return in the irons Saturday.
As of Monday the only other confirmed Oaks entrant was Stronach Stable's Alpha Heat, who is trained by Roger Attfield and will be ridden by Slade Callaghan.
Numerous Times no longer unbeaten
Numerous Times lost for the first time while making his seventh career start here last Saturday, finishing second in a six-furlong classified turf allowance, which was his first appearance since the Atto Mile here last Sept. 9.
"He'd been off a long time and he was sick five or six weeks ago, with a throat infection," said Sid Attard, who trains Numerous Times for The Committee Stable.
"I think he came up short on us, but he came back good. I'm very pleased with him."
Playing the role of giant-killer was Sky Hunter, owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Malcolm Pierce.
"I was pleasantly surprised," said Pierce. "He was still eligible for a nonwinners-of-two-other-than but the timing of the race was right, and he sure came up with a huge effort."