10/09/2006 12:00AM

Sky Conqueror's win has International impact


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Circumstances have forced Sky Conqueror to take an unorthodox route to this year's Canadian International here at Woodbine.

But after winning an open allowance race at a mile on the turf in his first start in 11 weeks on Sunday, Sky Conqueror is nonetheless on target for the Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International on Oct. 22.

Sky Conqueror, under regular rider Todd Kabel, came from well back with a powerful move to mow down his rivals and win here on Sunday by a measured length.

"I'm very happy; I think it went according to plan," said Darwin Banach, who trains Sky Conqueror for owner and breeder Bill Sorokolit. "Todd had to ask him a little bit, and he took off.

"He had a long time between races, and I knew he wasn't a hundred percent for this race," Banach said. "I think he will be a hundred percent for his next race. That was our main goal."

Sky Conqueror, a 4-year-old colt, surged to the top of the older turf male division at Woodbine this summer with back-to-back victories in the Grade 2 King Edward at 1 1/8 miles and the Grade 2 Northern Dancer at 1 1/2 miles.

But Sky Conqueror was scratched from his next scheduled race, the Grade 2 Nijinsky here Aug. 27, and remained hors de combat when the Grade 2 Sky Classic was run here Sept. 24.

"He missed about two weeks of training," said Banach. "We just had a number of things go wrong, things that we had to stop and wait for. If we hadn't waited, we wouldn't be where we are now."

Jambalaya, Last Answer also on the home team

Sky Conqueror is one of only three local horses - along with Jambalaya and Last Answer - nominated for the 1 1/2-mile Canadian International.

Jambalaya is coming off a close second-place finish in the Sky Classic behind United States invader Better Talk Now, who also is a Canadian International candidate.

On Saturday, Jambalaya breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 under regular rider Jono Jones.

"He pretty much breezes nicely all the time," said Catherine Day Phillips, who trains Jambalaya for her family's Kingfield Farm.

"He goes nice and fast, but not too fast. And, he was up [seven furlongs] in 1:28 and change, which is important."

Last Answer, a 6-year-old gelding owned and bred by Gustav Schickedanz and trained by Mike Keogh, finished second in the Northern Dancer and Nijinsky and third in the Sky Classic, beaten a total of three-quarters of a length.

Just Rushing earns black type

Just Rushing, a 5-year-old gelding, became a stakes winner under regular rider Emma-Jayne Wilson in Sunday's $76,200 Mt. Sassafras, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward.

Just Rushing got his sixth consecutive win at the meeting, and became the first horse to reach that total.

Owned by the Tucci Stable of Carlo and Lou Tucci and trained by Sid Attard, Just Rushing was claimed from a $40,000 conditioned claimer for nonwinners-of-three here last Nov.o20, a race that he won by 4 1/4 lengths.

Since failing to click in his first three starts this year, Just Rushing hasn't taken a wrong step while being astutely spotted by Attard.

"Before, you couldn't take a hold of him - he just wanted to go to the lead," said Attard, after Just Rushing's Mt. Sassafras score. "Now, he relaxes. He showed a lot of heart; that was a tough race."

Just Rushing is not the first horse to win six consecutive races under Attard's handling; he also sent out Joanne's Hunter when he won his first six starts in 1983 and ended up with a 9-for-14 mark for that season.

Nor is Just Rushing the first claim to strike stakes gold for Attard and the Tuccis. One for Rose, a multiple stakes winner and Canadian champion, and Miss Concerto, a stakes winner this year and last, had already turned that trick.

Jammed Lovely may be next for Strike Softly

Strike Softly got her second career stakes win while making her fourth consecutive turf appearance here in Saturday's $151,600 Carotene, a 1 1/8-mile race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies.

Owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, Strike Softly had won the Ontario Damsel at 6 1/2 furlongs and then was second in the 1 1/4-mile Wonder Where and the one-mile Ontario Colleen.

In her season debut here this spring, Strike Softly finished a closing third in the Fury at seven furlongs on the old dirt track.

"She's pretty versatile," said Frostad. "She can go long, turf or dirt. We'll have to see about Polytrack, but she's worked well on it."

Strike Softly was coming into the Carotene off two smart five-furlong breezes over the artificial surface and could make her next appearance in the $150,000 Jammed Lovely, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies here Nov. 12.

Two from Pierce barn in Saturday stakes

Hide and Chic and Devilment, both trained by Malcolm Pierce, worked five furlongs in company here Saturday and might both appear in stakes races this Saturday.

A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly, Hide and Chic was clocked in a bullet 1:00 under exercise rider Emile Ramsammy, while Devilment went in 1:00.40 under Kabel.

Hide and Chic is headed for the Thoroughbred Club of America, a Grade 3, $300,000 race at Keeneland. Devilment, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt, is a candidate for the Grade 3, $150,000 Durham Cup, a 1 1/8-mile race at Woodbine.

I'm a Kipper the official winner after all

The Ontario Racing Commission has reversed a decision made by the Woodbine stewards in the seventh race here June 30.

I'm a Kipper finished first but was disqualified and placed second, with In Good Company being declared the official winner.

John MacKenzie, owner and trainer of I'm a Kipper, lodged an appeal, which was upheld by the ORC board in a ruling released on Sunday.