09/23/2009 11:00PM

Stakes talent packs allowance

Michael Burns
Cool Gator will have blinkers put back on for his start on Saturday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It's not that unusual for a stakes-placed horse to show up in a first-level allowance race.

But Saturday's $79,500 ninth race, a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds and upward over 1 1/8 miles on turf, goes way beyond the pale, with no fewer than five stakes-placed runners slated to start in a field of 11.

Backgammon, Cool Gator, Keino West, Knight's Cause, and Bourbon Bay all have finished third or better in at least one stakes.

Backgammon, a Ontario-sired 5-year-old horse, is the veteran of the group with a record of 3-1-1 and earnings of $212,483 from 19 starts.

Trained by David Bell, Backgammon finished third here in the seven-furlong Simcoe, a yearling sales stakes for colts and geldings, as a 2-year-old and is eligible for this condition because his two allowance wins came in restricted company.

Backgammon will be making his first start since Aug. 5, when he finished second here in a first-level allowance over 1 1/4 miles on turf. Solitaire, himself a stakes-placed runner who had shipped in to score, came back to capture the John's Call st Saratoga in his next start.

"He was going to run back, but he bruised a foot," said Bell. "He's in great shape, as long as he gets to stay on turf."

Cool Gator, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old colt, sports a record of 1-4-2 for earnings of $237,085 from 16 starts.

Trained by Ian Black, Cool Gator finished second here in both the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Grey and the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity as a 2-year-old and third in the Grade 3, 1 3/16-mile Skip Away at Gulfstream this April.

Cool Gator has made 3 of his last 4 starts here in graded stakes on the main track, finishing fourth once and fifth twice. When dropped into a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles two starts back, he finished eighth as the 6-5 favorite.

"When I put him in a spot where he should win, he finds somebody to beat him," said Black. "I'm putting the blinkers back on him. That might just have him a little closer. Sometimes, he gets way out of it."

Keino West, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old gelding, comes in with a record of 1-3-1 and a bankroll of $151,020 from 19 starts.

Trained by Steve Attard, Keino West is coming off a second-place finish behind the favored Sand Cove here in the 1 1/16 mile Elgin, a yearling sales stakes for colts and geldings, 3 and up.

Keino West has made 6 of his 8 starts this year in stakes, including all three legs of Canada's Triple Crown, and was nominated to Sunday's Ontario Derby.

"We were looking at the Ontario Derby, but we're leaving him in this allowance race," said Attard. "It's time for a win, but this race doesn't look that easy. We're kind of hoping it comes off the turf."

Knight's Cause, an Ontario-sired 5-year-old gelding, has a record line of 3-3-2 and earnings of $174,921 from 11 starts.

Trained by Eric Coatrieux, Knight's Cause finished third in the restricted Bunty Lawless here over one mile of turf here last fall. His two allowance wins came in restricted races, including a smart score over 1 1/16 miles on grass last time out.

Bourbon Bay, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old gelding, has earned $80,885 via a record of 1-2-1 from 6 starts.

Trained by Neil Drysdale, Bourbon Bay finished second in the Cradle over 1 1/16 miles on turf at River Downs and third in the Grade 3 Generous over one mile on turf at Hollywood Park as a 2-year-old.

Off since running fourth in the Grade 3 Sham over 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Santa Anita on Feb. 28, Bourbon Bay was entered under these terms on Aug. 29 but was scratched when the race came off the turf.

Attfield looking for rerun

Trainer Roger Attfield, who sent out Sand Cove to win last year's Ontario Derby, will be looking to repeat with Tutti Buona Gente in Sunday's $150,000 renewal of the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds.

Tutti Buona Gente, a Kentucky-bred, won a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles and then finished second over the same distance in the Ontario Derby prep won by Eagle Poise, who also is back for the main event.

"I'm not going to say we would have beaten him, but the winner slipped down on the inside and got away on us that day," said Attfield, who expects Tutti Buona Gente to benefit from the Ontario Derby's added distance. "I think he'll run all day; he's a very long-winded horse."

The Ontario Derby has attracted a solid field of eight, headed by Eye of the Leopard, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial and 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate, and Awesome Rhythm, who has been successful in three open Polytrack stakes around two turns here this year.

Attfield also has a pair of candidates for Sunday's supporting feature, with both Mekong Melody and Russian Rosie slated to contest the $100,000 Flaming Page.

The Flaming Page, an overnight stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/2 miles on turf, has attracted a field of 10.

Midnight Mischief may hit road again

Midnight Mischief, also trained by Attfield, also was nominated to the Ontario Derby but could be headed for the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds on Oct. 10.

The Hawthorne Derby would be the third consecutive road trip for Midnight Mischief, who finished fifth in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga and then a troubled eighth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby. Both races were run over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

"Taking everything into consideration, it was a very good race," said Attfield, who trains Midnight Mischief for owners Rob Cudney and John Gunther. "It was a pretty bold move to go there."

Palladio breezes for Durham Cup bid

Palladio, a 7-year-old horse who won the Ontario Derby for Attfield in 2005, breezed five furlongs on the main track in 1:01.60 here Thursday in preparation for his attempt at a second straight win in the Durham Cup.

The Durham Cup, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds that offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000, will be run here next Sunday.