05/23/2006 11:00PM

Sir Blitz could change Vella's luck

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Danny Vella, whose talented 3-year-old fillies Like a Gem and Knights Templar have fallen victim to the virus sweeping the backstretch here at Woodbine, certainly could use some good news these days.

And perhaps that will come in the form of the old war horse Sir Blitz, a 7-year-old gelding who is slated to make his seasonal bow here in Friday's featured fourth race.

The second-level allowance/$62,500 optional claiming race, slated for six furlongs on turf, offers a purse of $66,800 and attracted 10 entrants, including one for the main track only.

Sir Blitz, who put together a four-race win streak on the turf here last year, is entered with a $60,000 claiming tag.

The question, of course, is whether Sir Blitz can win off the bench while making his first appearance since Oct. 28.

"It's hard to say whether they can carry their form into their 7-year-old year," said Vella. "He's run well off the layoff before.

"He's pretty fit, and pretty ready."

Sir Blitz, who will be ridden by Constant Montpellier, will be looking for his ninth win while making his 35th career start. He has earned $402,402.

Like a Gem, 'Templar' miss races

Like a Gem was scheduled to use the Selene, an open 1 1/16-mile stakes originally scheduled for last Sunday, as her major stepping-stone to the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on June 11.

But when high winds wiped out the last seven races, the Selene was rescheduled for Wednesday evening and Like a Gem was under the weather.

"She was right on Sunday, but she wasn't today," said Vella here Wednesday morning. "Her primary goal is the Oaks, and we can't afford to make a mistake."

Knights Templar also was compromised by the rescheduling of a stakes race, as the Star Shoot was one of the races canceled due to poor track conditions here April 23. The Star Shoot was run April 30.

Canada's champion 2-year-old filly, Knights Templar went off as the 3-5 choice in the six-furlong Star Shoot but finished second and was seriously congested following the race.

"She was perfect the first week but she wasn't the next week, obviously," said Vella, who also was forced to bypass the Selene with Knights Templar.

Can V S O P Please duplicate effort?

Friday's card also will feature the second career appearance of V S O P Please, a 4-year-old gelding who turned plenty of heads with a 9 3/4-length victory good for a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 in his debut here May 7.

V S O P Please's victory came in a six-furlong Ontario-sired maiden special. On Friday, V S O P Please will face restricted company in a first-level allowance at seven furlongs.

"He's going into this race excellent," said Jody Hammett, who trains V S O P Please.

"The seven-eighths shouldn't be a problem; he galloped out that far the first time he ran, and was still on top.

"The big question now is he's got to face winners, and got to repeat off such a good race. It's a big step up."

Gamblers Slew works for Highlander

Hammett sent out Gamblers Slew to work four furlongs in a bullet 47 during the meet's first turf training session here Wednesday.

A Florida-bred 4-year-old, Gamblers Slew is gearing up for the Grade 3, $200,000 Highlander, a six-furlong turf race here on June 25, Queen's Plate Day.

Gamblers Slew won the Charlie Barley over one mile of turf here last year. He finished last of five going 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt here in his only appearance this year.

"He might have been a couple of works short," said Hammett. "He found his home on grass and some horses, once they take to grass, it's tough to get them back to the dirt."

Steady Growth next for Arch Hall

Arch Hall turned in what was perhaps his best career effort with a powerful victory here in Monday's Grade 3 Eclipse over 1 1/16 miles. Arch Hall was returning to trainer Mark Casse's barn from a solid winter campaign with Tony Reinstedler at Oaklawn Park.

A 5-year-old horse owned and bred by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, Arch Hall is now 7 for 21 with earnings of $514,266.

"I think he probably is better now than he's ever been," said Casse.

Arch Hall, a son of the late Archer's Bay whose previous two stakes scores came in Ontario-sired company at 1 1/16 miles, is scheduled to return to the Ontario-sired ranks for the $125,000 Steady Growth here June 10.

Palladio to have surgery

Palladio, who had been slated to make his local seasonal bow in the Eclipse, was scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday and will be sidelined for three to four months.

"He had a great work last Monday and came back fine," said trainer Roger Attfield, who had sent out Palladio to drill six furlongs in 1:15 on May 15. "But a couple of days later he was slightly off. We found a small condylar fracture; we picked it up on some digital X-rays."

Palladio, a Florida-bred, was Canada's champion 3-year-old male last year after winning 4 of 9 starts and $479,010. His wins included the Grade 2 Ohio Derby at Thistledown and the Ontario Derby and Victoria Park here at Woodbine.

In his only appearance this year, Palladio finished a distant fifth in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland on April 27.