04/15/2008 11:00PM

Star Shoot winner a nice addition for Vella


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Danny Vella's barn was the hottest on the grounds here last weekend.

Vella, 52, won Saturday with first-time starter Daring Attraction and duplicated that feat Sunday with Bonded Messenger.

But the icing on the cake was Verdana Bold, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old owned by Ed Seltzer who became a stakes winner in the $150,000 Star Shoot.

Verdana Bold had made her first four starts in Maryland before being shipped here to Vella less than a month ago.

"With the speed she'd shown, she seemed vulnerable," said Vella. "We were hoping to keep her off the pace, and she seemed patient enough - the way we'd trained her."

Verdana Bold, under Emile Ramsammy, followed the script to perfection in the six-furlong Star Shoot, rallying for a $47.60 score.

"She's a wonderful filly," said Vella. "We're just learning more about her, but she's got a lot of talent."

Verdana Bold's next major target is the Grade 3, $250,000 Selene, a 1 1/16-mile race here May 18 that would be her first start around two turns.

"We want to see if she'll stretch out, and the opportunity is there," said Vella. "At this point, I don't see why she won't."

Daring Attraction ($61.30), a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old colt, won his maiden at the $40,000 claiming level, while Bonded Messenger ($7.40), an Ontario-bred 3-year-old filly, won a "B" maiden race.

Both Daring Attraction and Bonded Messenger had wintered in Florida and worked well here before their five-furlong debuts.

Bonded Messenger is nominated to the June 8 Woodbine Oaks but is not expected to make that 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

"It's a shame we won't have her ready in time," said Vella. "I think she'll stretch out. I was surprised she showed so much speed.

"She's a lovely filly. She's pretty, big and strong, and has a lot of talent."

Stuck in Traffic returns with a win

Nick Gonzalez, another trainer who is off to a running start here, sent out his second stakes winner of the young meeting last Saturday as Stuck in Traffic captured the $150,000 Achievement in his seasonal bow.

The six-furlong Achievement was the first start in five months for Stuck in Traffic, who had wintered with Gonzalez at Gulfstream Park and worked well there.

Stuck in Traffic led throughout and held off Not Bourbon by three-quarters of a length, recording a quick clocking of 1:08.62, which yielded a Beyer Speed Figure of 97.

"He pretty obviously showed some determination," said Gonzalez. "He had every right to get beat. Every time Not Bourbon got up to him, he pulled away again."

The Achievement was the third stakes win for Stuck in Traffic, with the longest coming at seven furlongs.

"Saturday's race didn't really prove anything," said Gonzalez, who trains Stuck in Traffic for his wife and assistant, Martha, and MAD Racing Stable. "We already knew he was a good sprinter. But is he going to go two turns?"

That question is particularly relevant as Stuck in Traffic, along with every other promising Canadian-bred 3-year-old on the horizon, is looking long-term at the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here June 22.

His next stepping-stone along that path will be the $150,000 Queenston, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds here May 3.

Shilla aimed for Oaks

Shilla, a 3-year-old filly who gave Gonzalez his first stakes win of the year in the opening-day La Voyageuse at five furlongs, also is being considered for the premier prize for her division, the Woodbine Oaks.

A homebred who races for Victura Farm, Shilla is scheduled to make her next start in the $150,000 Fury, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies here April 27.

In the meantime, Gonzalez will be looking to add to his stakes total when he sends out My List in the $150,000 Whimsical, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares here Sunday.

My List, owned by Tucci Stable, will be opening her 2008 campaign after defeating older fillies and mares in her last start as a 3-year-old in the seven-furlong Bessarabian here last Nov. 25.

"She's always been a very tough, hard-knocking filly, and there's no reason to think she's going to be any less of a horse at 4," said Gonzalez. "She's been breezing up a storm."

Gonzalez had a second Whimsical nominee in Shawanaga, a 4-year-old owned by Victura Farm who finished a close sixth in her seasonal bow under third-level allowance terms here last Saturday.

"We'll probably wait for turf with her," said Gonzalez. "She's a better horse on turf."

Sutherland back from Santa Anita

Jockey Chantal Sutherland, fresh off a successful winter session at Santa Anita, will make her first appearances of the season here Friday with three mounts on the 10-race program.

Sutherland, 32, recorded 16 wins from 112 rides at Santa Anita, with the highlight a victory aboard Lightmyfirebaby in the $139,250 Irish O'Brien. She also added 15 seconds and 10 thirds and her mounts earned $694,894. She also was a bettor's friend, with a return on investment of $2.68.

Steve Flint joins Asmussen team

Trainer Steve Asmussen's Woodbine division has become home to a second assistant trainer, as Steve Flint joined Darren Fleming here last weekend.

Flint, 48, had succeeded his father, Bernie Flint, as private trainer for Bert, Elaine, and Richard Klein from September 2001 to last April when the owners ended the relationship.

"I'd been assistant to my father for 22 years, and then on my own for six years," said Flint, who has trained multiple stakes winners such as Allamerican Bertie, De Bertie, May Gator, G P Fleet, Change Up, and She's That Cat. "I took some time off to reevaluate things, but I always stayed close to the racing game."

One of the people with whom Flint had stayed in touch was Asmussen, and he contacted the trainer when he learned of the new division at Woodbine.

"It's a great opportunity," said Flint, who learned just last week that he would be heading north.