04/28/2008 12:00AM

Shilla to keep on stepping up


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Shilla passed her second test on the road to the June 8 Woodbine Oaks here on Sunday with a determined win in the $150,800 Fury.

After capturing the six-furlong La Voyageuse in her season debut, Shilla had to take her game to a new level with the lightly raced but undefeated Gloriously and Dowd Chapel among her Fury opponents.

Nick Gonzalez, who trains Shilla for owner and breeder Brian Cullen, is well aware that the competition isn't going to get any easier in the near future.

"I know when the races are going farther, they're going to come up tougher," said Gonzalez. "So when the races get tougher, we've just got to get better."

Shilla has yet to race beyond seven furlongs, and the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks is at 1 1/8 miles.

So, did the Fury give Gonzalez any clues as to the distance question?

"Stamina-wise, maybe no," he said. "But you know she's got the heart to do it."

Gonzalez will nominate Shilla for the Grade 3, $250,000 Selene, 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies here May 18, which is the final local stakes prep for the Woodbine Oaks.

"The races are kind of close," said Gonzalez. "We'll have to see how hard she takes this."

Stuck in Traffic set for Queenston

In the meantime, Gonzalez hopes to be looking for his fifth stakes win of the young meeting with Stuck in Traffic in Saturday's $150,000 Queenston.

The seven-furlong Queenston is a stepping-stone to the $1 million, 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here June 22.

Stuck in Traffic won the six-furlong Achievement in his 2008 debut here April 12, and Gonzalez is not planning an interim workout.

"He does his own breezing, when he wants to," said Gonzalez.

Gloriously not likely for Oaks

Gloriously was making her local bow in the Fury after beginning her career with a maiden win at Fair Grounds on March 1 and coming back to capture a first-level allowance at seven furlongs at Keeneland.

"I was proud of her; she ran hard," said Mark Casse, who trains Gloriously for Woodford Racing. "She's still very green; she finished the race on her wrong lead."

While acknowledging her obvious talent, Casse has serious doubts about Gloriously as a Woodbine Oaks prospect.

"It's questionable how far she can go," said Casse. "She's a light filly; it's not easy to keep weight on her, and that race was probably a little quick back for her.

"The Selene is definitely not an option. The Oaks is an outside possibility."

Casse has more lined up for stakes

Gloriously's defeat left Casse just a neck shy of sweeping the three most recent stakes here.

Bonanza had given Casse his first stakes score of the meeting in last Friday's $104,200 Wando, and Legal Move underlined his prowess as a come-from-behind sprinter by winning Saturday's $165,300 Jacques Cartier.

While Bonanza is a possibility for the Grade 3, $150,000 Marine, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds here May 17, Casse has a definite candidate for that race in Miner's Claim.

A Kentucky-bred, as is Bonanza, Miner's Claim finished second in the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway at Turfway in March, then ended up a troubled-trip sixth in Keeneland's 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass.

"He stumbled early, and when he came back to the barn, he'd bent the inside of his left shoe," said Casse. "There was a one-inch separation, from the shoe to the foot. He'd run the entire race with his shoe half-off."

Legal Move, who defeated open company in the six-furlong Jacques Cartier, is slated to swing back in the $125,000 New Providence, a 6 1/2-furlong race for Ontario-sired horses here May 10.

"He's doing great," said Casse. "As long as he's happy, our plans are to go ahead. Then, he'll need a little break."

Calling on the other Husbands

With his main rider, Patrick Husbands, at Churchill Downs to ride Turf War in last Saturday's Derby Trial, Casse needed a jockey for Legal Move.

Fortunately, there was another Husbands available - Simon, 38, Patrick's older brother. He took over aboard Legal Move and recorded his first stakes win since guiding Sophia's Prince to victory here in the 2005 Shepperton.

Turf War, meanwhile, finished eighth of nine in his third consecutive dull effort since dead-heating for the win in last December's $1 million Delta Jackpot.

"He's been a puzzle to us," said Casse. "We'll give him a break, work him on the turf, and regroup."

Sealy Hill goes in Nassau next

Sealy Hill is back at Woodbine and is slated to make her next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau here Mayo31. The 1o1/16-mile Nassau is the first turf stakes of the meet for the filly/mare set.

"She looks magnificent," said Casse, whose 2007 campaign for Sealy Hill resulted in titles as Canada's Horse of the Year, champion turf filly or mare, and champion 3-year-old filly. "And, she's training better than ever."

Sealy Hill's season debut was disappointing, however, as she finished last of 10 after making a strong move up the rail in Keeneland's Grade 2 Jenny Wiley.

"She was in tight, and just threw her head up and quit," said Casse. "That's Sealy Hill."

Sealy Hill's idiosyncrasies resulted in her being disqualified from her win here in last year's Bison City, a decision that was reversed on appeal, and may have cost her the first prize in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor.

Anywhere from four to none

Casse has four nominees to the Queenston - Battle Zone, East End Tap, Grazettes Landing, and Took the Time - but he may not have a starter in the race.

He could enter Battle Zone, who won his only career start at five furlongs here April 6 and worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Monday, but is not enthused about throwing him up against Stuck in Traffic at this point.

East End Tap and Took the Time are eligible for first-level allowances, and Grazettes Landing, although stakes-placed, is a maiden after two starts.

Giddings serves 3-day suspension

Apprentice jockey Melanie Giddings will serve a three-day suspension on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. The stewards ruled that Giddings had gone out with her mount, Essa G., and interfered with Highland Connor near the quarter pole during the 10th race April 20. Essa G. finished sixth, Highland Connor seventh.

Giddings would have been on the shelf in any case since she injured her hand in a training accident here on Thursday.

o Kesagami, a Queen's Plate candidate from trainer Sid Attard, breezed six furlongs in 1:16 here Sunday and is set to make his seasonal bow in the Queenston. "He went nice and easy," said Attard.