05/17/2004 12:00AM

'Sphynx' among four late nominees for Plate


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The final nomination deadline for the June 27 Queen's Plate fell on the stroke of midnight on Saturday, and the connections of four horses shelled out a $15,000 supplementary nomination fee to keep their hopes alive.

Eye of the Sphynx, Copper Trail, Rockin Again, and Desperado Kid are the new nominees and bring interesting credentials to the prospective picture for the $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

A filly owned and bred by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, Eye of the Sphynx scored her second victory in as many career starts when romping in the seven-furlong Fury here on May 9.

Frostad, with an eye toward the June 13 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, had originally planned to bypass Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Selene with Eye of the Sphynx but is now having second thoughts.

"I was thinking of going straight to the Oaks," said Frostad. "But that would be five weeks [between starts], and it's pretty hard to keep her on the ground right now."

Copper Trail, owned by Stolar Stable and trained by Jim Day, won two restricted stakes last year - Fort Erie's six-furlong Juvenile and Woodbine's seven-furlong Frost King - and wound up his campaign with a third-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity.

Returning to action for the first time as a 3-year-old here Sunday, Copper Trail was a smart winner under third-level allowance terms in a race for 3-year-olds and upward. His Beyer Speed Figure was 83.

Rockin' Again was purchased privately by Earle Mack after he finished second in an entry-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles at Aqueduct on Feb. 5. He was shipped here to trainer Reade Baker.

In his local debut, which came over seven furlongs of sloppy going on May 9, Rockin' Again prevailed by a neck to notch his first allowance condition.

Desperado Kid, owned by Charles LaLoggia and based at Churchill Downs with Patrick Byrne, won his first career start in a maiden special over seven furlongs of mud on May 1, with his Beyer coming back at 87.

An Ontario-bred colt by Bianconi, Desperado Kid is entered in Wednesday's fourth race at Churchill, a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/8 miles.

Sprinting no problem for 'Ruckus'

It might have appeared that Barbeau Ruckus, a 5-year-old gelding whose six career stakes wins all had come at 1 1/16 miles, was tuning up for future engagements when he made his seasonal debut here in Saturday's six-furlong New Providence.

But, trainer Ross Armata was not particularly surprised when Barbeau Ruckus was along in time for a neck victory in his first start at the distance since his 2-year-old campaign.

"It goes back to his 3-year-old year, when we were going to run him in the Plate," said Armata, who trains Barbeau Ruckus for his daughter, Jennifer Armata, and partner Thayalan Muthulingham.

"I wanted him to try and rate far back - he always wanted to run closer to the pace than I made him run. He was ready for six furlongs; I knew if he'd lay up close, he'd finish strong."

Armata now will look to duplicate last year's successful pattern with Barbeau Ruckus, with a pair of restricted 1 1/16-mile stakes - the $125,000 Steady Growth here June 12 and the $75,000 H.J. Addison Jr. at Fort Erie on July 11 - being next on his agenda.

"The problem now is, are we going to be able to rate him going a mile and a sixteenth?" said Armata.

Few local options for Winter Garden

There was no question regarding the suitability of the distance for Winter Garden, an impressive winner of Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie Handicap.

A 4-year-old filly owned by Frank DiGiulio and trained by Bob Tiller, Winter Garden was recording her fourth stakes victory in the Hendrie. It was her ninth score from 14 career starts, with all her successes coming around one turn on the main track.

"She's a super filly," said Tiller. "She was able to stalk the pace; that was the game plan."

Winter Garden, being Kentucky-bred, has few stakes options locally. The $100,000 Sweet Briar Too, a seven-furlong race scheduled for June 6, would be a logical spot.

But, the Sweet Briar Too is an overnight stakes, and Woodbine could elect not to card the race if fewer than six horses are entered.

Wando and Soaring Free come home

Wando and Soaring Free were back at Woodbine on Monday, apparently none the worse for wear following disappointing efforts Saturday at Pimlico.

Canada's reigning horse of the year, Wando was prominent through much of the Grade 2 Dixie but faded in the final furlong of the 1 1/8-mile turf race to wind up seventh, beaten four lengths under regular rider Patrick Husbands.

"He's fine; he came out of it good," said Mike Keogh, who trains Wando for owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz. "I can't really come up with an excuse."

Soaring Free, Canada's champion sprinter last year, finished eighth of nine as the 2-1 choice in the six-furlong Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"The track was pretty deep; a lot of horses didn't handle it," said Frostad, who trains Soaring Free for owner-breeder Sam-Son Farm.

Neither Keogh nor Frostad confirmed any immediate plans for their respective runners.

* Mobil, the other big shooter in the Keogh-Schickedanz arsenal, worked six furlongs in 1:12 under regular rider Todd Kabel here Monday and remains on target for the May 31 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont.

* Apprentice jockey Sunny Singh has a new agent in Neal Wilson, effective last Saturday. Wilson also represents journeymen Emile Ramsammy and Ray Sabourin.