11/25/2005 1:00AM

Soul Rebel faces tough task

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Sugar Swirl, winning the Princess Elizabeth in October, tops the field for next Sunday's Ontario Lassie.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer John Charalambous is the first to admit that Soul Rebel is ambitiously spotted in Sunday's Sir Barton Stakes here at Woodbine.

Soul Rebel, a 3-year-old gelding, will be making just his second career start in the $125,000 Sir Barton, a 1 1/16-mile Ontario-sired stakes for 3-year-olds and upward.

"It's a pretty tough task, to ask a horse to run against older stakes winners," said Charalambous. "To be honest, I wish he had one more race. Then I'd have no problem with it."

Soul Rebel, owned and bred by Richard Day's Kingview Farm, never made it to the racetrack last year and joined Charalambous here in mid-March.

"He'd never breezed or anything," said Charalambous. "It was a long process, getting him to the races. But we got him there, and he ran great."

Soul Rebel came into his Oct. 5 debut well below the radar, as he went off at 11-1 under Jono Jones.

"He'd always worked relatively easy," said Charalambous. "I didn't ask him for a lot of speed; I knew the horse wasn't comfortable like that.

"I knew he'd run all day," he added. "I was only looking for one thing - an Ontario-sired race, going long."

Soul Rebel made short work of his eight opponents in that 1 1/16-mile maiden special, pulling away to a 7 3/4-length score under Jones and earning a very impressive Beyer Speed Figure of 88.

"I thought he'd be an okay Ontario-sired horse," said Charalambous. "I still don't know what kind of horse he is. It wasn't much of a field that night. I knew he was fit, but the way he pulled away, and how quick he went, surprised me."

Still, Charalambous acknowledges that running Soul Rebel in the Sir Barton was not his first choice. The timing was particularly unfortunate because the Sir Barton, which previously had been restricted to Ontario-sired 3-year-old colts and geldings, had been opened up this year to include older Ontario-sired horses of both sexes.

"I've been looking for a race back for him, but they haven't filled, and it's getting near the end of the year," said Charalambous. "That's why we entered him in the stake. He's been working pretty steady, every week."

Executive Choice shipping in

While the Sir Barton is not normally the type of race to attract a shipper, there will be one such animal this year as Executive Choice, trained in New York by Bruce Levine, is making the trip to Woodbine.

Executive Choice, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Roddy Valente, was claimed for $40,000 at Santa Anita this February. After finishing fourth in first-level allowance company in his first start for his new interests, Executive Choice moved east to Belmont.

His lone win in six starts there came in a $50,000 starter allowance, and Executive Choice finished second on three other occasions and third once.

All those races were around one turn, but Executive Choice has recorded some impressive Beyer Speed Figures and did handle two turns at the $32,000 through $40,000 claiming ranges at Santa Anita this winter.

Corey Fraser picks up the mount on Executive Choice, who would be Levine's first starter at Woodbine.

Fashion's top three face off again

Next weekend's stakes features will be the Grade 3, $150,000 Bessarabian, a seven-furlong handicap for fillies and mares on Saturday, and the $150,000 Ontario Lassie, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies on Sunday.

Bessarabian candidates include Colonial Surprise, Search the Church, and Tamara, the one-two-three finishers from the six-furlong Ontario Fashion here Nov. 5.

Sugar Swirl, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies here Oct. 22, is the top prospect for the Ontario Lassie.

Three $125,000 stakes are on tap for closing weekend, with the Kennedy Road going Saturday, Dec. 10, and the Valedictory and Kingarvie set for Sunday, Dec. 11.

The six-furlong Kennedy Road and the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory both are races for 3-year-olds and upward. The 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie is for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds.

Sam Houston latest common pool

Beginning Wednesday, Canadian horseplayers will be able to wager directly into the pools at Sam Houston Race Park in Texas.

Sam Houston will become the fourth North American Thoroughbred racetrack on Woodbine's simulcasting menu to host common-pool wagering, joining Aqueduct, Hawthorne, and Turfway Park.

The takeout here on most wagers will mirror Sam Houston's, with win-place-show at 18 percent; the daily double, exactor, and quinella at 21 percent; and the triactor, superfecta, and pick four at 25 percent.

The pick three takeout, which is 12 percent at Sam Houston, will be 25 percent here.

Sam Houston offers 10-cent supers, but the minimum here will be $1.