09/01/2006 12:00AM

Softer spot for Uncle Max

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Michael Burns
Bad Hat, winning the Kingarvie Stakes last December, makes his second turf start in the Vice Regent.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Fresh off a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Stakes, Uncle Max will shorten up to a mile and drop in class for Sunday's $125,000 Vice Regent Stakes,a turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds at Woodbine.

Uncle Max didn't make his career debut until May 26, and after two mediocre dirt efforts, trainer Catherine Day Phillips tried him on the grass in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special, which he won by a neck.

Uncle Max met difficult older Ontario-sired opposition in a one-mile allowance July 21. After trailing in the nine-horse field early, he weaved his way through traffic in the stretch and finished second to Decew Falls, the 2005 Vice Regent winner.

Uncle Max had traffic troubles on the far turn in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders', and went on to be beaten just 2 1/4 lengths.

"I thought he ran a tremendous race," Day Phillips said. "The whole focus of the summer with him was not the Breeders' Stakes. The longest race he had run was a mile and a sixteenth, and he was stepping up to a mile and a half. He was picking up a significant amount of weight and didn't have the easiest of trips. He got a little tired, which was understandable."

Trainer Mike DePaulo entered both Bad Hat and Another Ascot in the Vice Regent.

Bad Hat, a multiple stakes winner on the dirt, was fifth in his only grass start, the June 14 Bold Ruckus Stakes, which followed a leisurely grass work.

"He worked a slow half on the grass, which I wasn't really happy with," DePaulo said. "He just galloped around there. I've never had any luck working a horse that slow going into a stakes. He might have been no good no matter what [surface] we ran him on that day, because it was his first start after recovering from a virus."

Another Ascot, who recently won a turf allowance, worked five-eighths in a bullet 1:00 in company with Bad Hat over the turf training course Aug. 25. "They went super," DePaulo said.

Trainer Laurie Silvera supplemented Initforthemoney to the race at a cost of $2,500. Initforthemoney was second behind the talented Tothemoonandback in the six-furlong Bold Ruckus.

"He can go seven-eighths, and I think he can be coaxed into going a mile," Silvera said.

I'm Spectral has worked encouragingly since finishing third behind Bad Hat in the July 19 Deputy Minister Stakes. He has never tried the grass, but his dam won on it and has thrown a turf winner.