11/13/2002 1:00AM

Short fields plague overnight stakes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Sunny's Halo, a 6 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-olds on Sunday, is the last of 10 new overnight stakes for Canadian-breds here this year.

The races in the overnight stakes program, which also included 12 open stakes - some new, some existing - were not guaranteed to go and required a minimum of five entrants to be carded. All offered purses of $100,000 added.

But many of the overnight stakes, including most of the Canadian-bred races, attracted short fields.

"Quite a few of the races were a little disappointing," said Chris Evans, racing secretary and director of racing for the Woodbine Entertainment Group. "Sometimes, it was surprising."

Evans cited the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes, a seven-furlong race for older horses July 28, as a race that drew a disappointingly small field. The race was carded for the turf but switched to the main track, and there were no scratches.

"You'd think it would be very popular, but it was a five-horse field," said Evans.

Only one of the originally scheduled stakes did not go. The Northernette, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred fillies Aug. 17, failed to attract enough entrants. That race was replaced by the Mt. Sassafras, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward, which was run Oct. 27 with a field of five.

The Ontario division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society proposed the idea for the overnight stakes and funded half the purse money, Evans said.

"The jury's out on it, but basically it's a program for Canadian-breds," said Evans.

The overnight races were slotted to fill gaps in the regular stakes program, and the scheduling was not always easy.

The Sunny's Halo, for example, will be run one day after the Display Stakes, an open 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds. Six of the 12 Sunny's Halo nominees also were nominated to the Display, although none entered the Display.

"Getting toward the end of the year, there was no sprint for Canadian-bred 2-year-old colts," said Evans. "As a 6 1/2-furlong race for Canadian-breds, it shouldn't really clash with the Display."

Racing department shakeup

Evans is in the final days of his dual role as racing secretary and director of racing. He will assume the new position of director of Thoroughbred racing.

The change is part of a restructuring of Woodbine's Thoroughbred racing department.

Evans's responsibilities will include supervising Woodbine's race office and backstretch operations. He also will be actively involved in hiring and training his replacement.

The shuffle also will see Tom Cosgrove, Woodbine's director of horsemen's relations, take on the new role of director of backstretch operations.

John Whitson will continue in his current role as vice-president of Thoroughbred racing.

Maiden works for Lassie

Cream Rises worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 under regular rider Constant Montpellier here Wednesday and is slated to make her next start in $150,000 Ontario Lassie Nov. 24.

"She was very well in hand, and Con said he could hardly pull her up," said trainer Dave Cotey.

The Ontario Lassie is a 1 1/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Cream Rises has run twice, finishing second in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special and fourth in the six-furlong Fanfreluche Stakes.

"We've thought all along the longer the better for her," said Cotey, who owns Cream Rises, under his nom de course Dominion Bloodstock, in partnership with Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith. "She's so strong at the end of her gallops."

Perfect Soul returns to track

Working Wednesday on the training track were Perfect Soul and Muntej, two turf specialists from trainer Roger Attfield's stable.

Perfect Soul, in his first breeze since finishing last of eight in the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park, went four furlongs in 49 seconds. A 4-year-old colt owned and bred by Charles Fipke, Perfect Soul could make his next appearance in the $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap, a Grade 3 race over 1 1/8 miles at Calder Dec. 7.

Red Sea, owned by Attfield in partnership with Bill Werner and Bill Graham, also will be nominated to the Tropical Turf Handicap.

A 6-year-old gelding, Red Sea is coming off a win in the Labeeb, one of the new open overnight stakes, which was run over one mile of yielding turf here Nov. 3.

Muntej, who has not raced since Aug. 31 after being hit hard by the virus that was making the rounds here this summer, breezed three furlongs in 39.60 seconds.

"It's taken us a long time to get him right," said Attfield. "That was his first breeze, and it looked like everything was okay."

Muntej, a stakes-winning 5-year-old who is partly owned by Attfield, is not expected to be ready to run before late December or early January.

* Sheila's Prospect, runner-up in the six-furlong Ontario Fashion here Oct. 26, breezed four furlongs in 50.20 seconds on the training track Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's $150,000 Bessarabian Handicap.

Owned by K.K. Sangara and trained by Lorne Richards, Sheila's Prospect has been assigned 115 pounds for the Grade 3 Bessarabian, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares.