07/07/2005 11:00PM

Solving surface problems not easy


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The rumor mill has been working overtime here recently, and Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president of Thoroughbred racing, would like to set the record straight regarding the future of the main track.

Woodbine's main track has been a source of concern this year, with complaints centering on the loose and cuppy nature of the surface.

"We're going to work with this track for two years, and if we can't get it right, then we're going to start exploring our options," said Evans.

Those options, Evans said, would include the installation of a synthetic Polytrack or a complete resurfacing of the main track. Neither, however, is close to being a reality.

In May, following the advice of racetrack consultant John Passero, Woodbine gave the track a whirlwind renovation. The work was overseen by Brian Jabelman, director of racing surfaces, and Sean Gault, manager of racing surfaces. The cushion was roto-tilled, to loosen and mix up the material, and washed sand was added to the mix.

"They mixed it all together and packed it down," said Evans. "The reaction after we did it was that the track was hard, but as time went on, it was very loose again. We'd roll it, water it, but that wouldn't compact it. The best-case scenario would have been a heavy rainfall, but it never happened. It's just been an exceptionally dry, hot summer. Brian's done a good job, under the circumstances."

On Wednesday, with first post at 6:55 p.m., Jabelman and his crew took a half-inch off the cushion, rolled the track, and soaked it for two hours. The move seemed to result in faster times, but Evans said that situation probably would be temporary.

"You can't duplicate that every day," said Evans. "The track will loosen up again, barring rain.

"We think it's a safe racing surface," he said. "Our challenge is to compromise between a hard/fast track and a track that is too cuppy."

In the meantime, Woodbine has posted a job notice seeking applicants for the new position of "senior manager, Thoroughbred racing surfaces." Evans said the new position was more of an office job than a hands-on type of job, with responsibilities including scheduling staff.

"That way, Brian can give 100 percent of his attention to the track," said Evans.

Mona Rose seeking a repeat

A solid doubleheader of turf handicaps will be featured here next Saturday, with both the $300,000 Dance Smartly and the $150,000 Toronto Cup going at 1 1/8 miles.

The Grade 3 Dance Smartly is for fillies and mares, and the Toronto Cup is for 3-year-olds.

Mona Rose will be looking to defend her title in the Dance Smartly, and Classic Stamp will be looking to improve on her third-place finish in the race last year.

Another locally based filly who may bear watching in the Dance Smartly is Noble Stella, who finished four lengths back in sixth when experiencing traffic problems in the Grade 2 Nassau here June 4. The Nassau was Noble Stella's local debut, and she was cutting back from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/16 miles.

"I tried to shorten her up, but she's really bred to go long, and that's what she's always been doing," said trainer Roger Attfield. "But I thought that it was a good race. She didn't get free running room. Otherwise, I think she would have been on the board.

"I'll probably give her one more shot at that sort of distance, and if it doesn't work out we'll have to start going on the road."

Noble Stella worked five furlongs on the turf training course in 1:01 here Wednesday with assistant trainer Rachel Halden in the irons.

"She's going well," said Attfield.

Palladio considered for Toronto Cup

Attfield is still weighing his options with Palladio, a Florida-bred who won last Saturday's Grade 2 Ohio Derby and would be a solid choice in the Toronto Cup.

"I've just trained him back lightly for the last two or three days, and he seems fine," said Attfield. "I'll work it out next week, what we want to do."

Gamblers Slew, perfect in two turf starts this season, including the one-mile Charlie Barley on June 26, would be the top locally based candidate in Palladio's absence.

Wannatalkaboutme right back

Wannatalkaboutme, the 2-year-old filly who recorded her second win from as many starts when she took last Saturday's five-furlong My Dear, is scheduled to return to action in next Sunday's Shady Well.

The My Dear was an open filly race, and the 5 1/2-furlong Shady Well is for Ontario foals.

"We might even swing her back again in the Nandi and then give her a break," said Nick Gonzalez, who trains Wannatalkaboutme.

The six-furlong Nandi is for Ontario-sired fillies and will be run here Aug. 6.

Rematch in Deputy Minister

The Wednesday night Ontario Sire Stakes action will resume here July 20 with the running of the $125,000 Deputy Minister, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds.

Wholelottabourbon, who was Canada's champion 2-year-old male, and the talented Enough Is Enough are both injured and were not even nominated to the Deputy Minister.

Quick in Deed and Dave the Knave, the one-two finishers in the six-furlong Achievement for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds here July 1, are slated to renew their rivalry in the Deputy Minister.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will hold its monthly meeting here Wednesday, beginning at the new time of 7:30 p.m. in the second-floor International Room. New members and guests are welcome.