06/28/2003 12:00AM

Stakes winner Devastating retired

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Devastating, a 5-year-old who was a multiple stakes winner of $409,858, has been retired.

Robert King, who trains Devastating for the Orange Blossom Stable of Ralph and Linda Bodine, said the mare had bled badly when finishing fourth in her last start, the six-furlong Ballade here June 11.

"She'd had her little problems here and there, but that was the first major thing," said King.

King had stopped treating Devastating with Lasix after her first start in 2003, as she had developed an adverse reaction to the medication that had been part of her race-day regimen for 17 straight outings following her debut.

Bred in Ontario, Devastating had the best run of her career here last summer, recording back-to-back wins in the Sweet Briar Too and Kamar, both over seven furlongs.

She had recorded her first stakes win as a 3-year-old, in the 1 1/16-mile Eternal Search here. Overall, she won 6 of 20 starts and finished in the money 12 times.

"She was good to us," said King, adding that Devastating was turned out at nearby Gardiner Farm and is slated to be bred to Silver Deputy next spring.

Baker, Vella face off again

The last time trainers Reade Baker and Danny Vella both saddled horses for Stronach Stable in the same stakes race was in the Adena Springs Matchmaker at Fort Erie June 15.

Real Doll came away a winner for Baker that day, rallying late to score by a head over Freedom Come, who was seeking her third straight victory for Vella. The two raced as an entry in the $69,000 stakes, a five-furlong race that was taken off the turf, and they went postward at 6-5.

On Monday, Baker and Vella again will saddle fillies for Stronach in a stakes race: the $107,000 Zadracarta here at Woodbine.

But while Freedom Come again will represent Vella's barn, Baker will be countering with Alpha Heat in the six-furlong turf race for fillies and mares.

Also, the two will race as separate betting interests, because of the Ontario Racing Commission rule that eliminates entries in stakes races worth $100,000 or more.

Freedom Come, a 4-year-old daughter of Lit de Justice whose forte is speed, will be making her turf debut in the Zadracarta, which is named after a filly who excelled under such circumstances.

"She's trained great on it," said Vella, "and going short on the turf will favor her. They run well on dirt, too, but I have not yet seen a Lit de Justice that didn't move up on grass."

Alpha Heat, a 4-year-old daughter of Alphabet Soup, finished third last year in both the 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks and Fort Erie's 1 1/16-mile Labatt Bison City, the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Tiara.

She also raced in the series finale, leading early before ending sixth in the Wonder Where here over 1 1/4 miles of grass. She later finished fifth in a 1 1/16-mile turf outing under first-level allowance terms.

"She ran fairly well on turf," said Baker, "and I think she's better going shorter."

Alpha Heat enters the Zadracarta in peak form and is a head away from being undefeated in three main-track allowance sprints here this year.

'Phantom' returns in Dominion Day

Vella also will be represented in Tuesday's Grade 3 Dominion Day Handicap, with Phantom Light going postward for the 1 1/4-mile mile headliner.

Phantom Light, a 4-year-old colt owned by Stronach Stable, jumped directly from an impressive win in a first-level allowance to notch his first stakes score here in the May 10 Eclipse, with both successes coming over 1 1/16 miles.

But on June 7 here in his last start, the 1 1/8-mile allowance prep for the Dominion Day, Phantom Light was a rather flat fifth as the 7-5 favorite.

"Things didn't go the right way for him," said Vella. "Maybe the time in between races, four weeks, was a little too much. It just wasn't his day."

While the Dominion Day distance is uncharted territory for Phantom Light, Vella has reason to believe the son of Alphabet Soup will handle the journey.

"He likes to be fairly close," said Vella, "and I think the slower pace at a mile and a quarter will suit him better that way.

"With his breeding, and the way he trains, you have to like him going a mile and a quarter."

Phantom Light, Freedom Come, and Alpha Heat all were trained last year by Roger Attfield.

Mt. Sassafras to make appearance

Mt. Sassafras, who was Canada's horse of the year in 1996 and recorded the final win of his career in the 1999 Dominion Day, will be paraded after the fourth race here Tuesday.

Racing for Minshall Farm and trainer Barbara Minshall, the gelding also won the Dominion Day in 1996 and was a close fourth in that fall's Breeders' Cup Classic here at Woodbine.

Retired in the spring of 2000, Mt. Sassafras now is owned by Sarah Sullivan, who groomed the horse throughout his racing career.

He now is enjoying a life of leisure at the Caistor Centre, Ontario, farm of Nancy Sullivan, a sister of Sarah's who was Minshall's assistant trainer during the Mt. Sassafras years and currently is a jockey agent representing Chantal Sutherland.