09/20/2007 12:00AM

Sterwins stepping up in Sky Classic

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Malcolm Pierce had Sterwins all dressed up and ready to go for Melnyk Racing Stable should his presence have been required for last Sunday's Woodbine Mile.

But Host, a Grade 1 winner trained by Todd Pletcher, was the runner of choice for the Melnyks in the Woodbine Mile. And, when Host shipped in from New York, the participation of Sterwins was no longer deemed necessary.

Host acquitted himself well enough with a fifth-place finish, and Sterwins will be able to pursue a slightly more modest goal here in Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Sky Classic, a 1 3/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward.

Sterwins still will be stepping up in company after recording his first stakes win in the With Approval, a $75,000 overnight stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf here Aug. 12. Pierce, however, is pleased with the colt's progress since he moved into his barn here early this summer.

In his first start of the season and his first for his new trainer, Sterwins rallied from well off the pace to finish second in the Ontario Jockey Club, an overnight stakes over seven furlongs on turf here July 21. Then came the With Approval, where Sterwins stalked the pace and prevailed by a half-length under rider Patrick Husbands.

Previously trained by Todd Pletcher, Sterwins had shipped up to finish second in last year's 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate.

"The big thing on Sunday is whether he can get the distance," said Pierce. "Obviously, he went a mile and a quarter in the Queen's Plate last year. The key will be to get him to relax, and not use up his energy early.

"When you add this extra turn, some horses just jump to the lead."

Queenly Luck taking long shot

Pierce will send out Queenly Luck in Sunday's supporting feature, the $100,000 Flaming Page.

The Flaming Page, an overnight stakes, is a 11/2-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Queenly Luck, a 5-year-old owned by Cinnamont Stable, will be making her stakes debut and is coming off a win in a $40,000 claiming race for nonwinners of three. The distance of that race, 1 3/8 miles on turf, is the reason for her presence in the Flaming Page.

"It's going to be a step up for her, and she might not be good enough," said Pierce. "But, I know we'll get the distance."

Palladio breezes for Mass Cap

Palladio breezed three furlongs in 37 seconds here Thursday morning and then hopped on a van to Suffolk Downs, where he will run in Saturday's $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

Palladio won the Grade 3 Eclipse in his local seasonal bow this May, and followed up with solid efforts in the Dominion Day and Seagram Cup but was fourth in an open allowance race last time out.

"He had a little hiccup in that race," said Roger Attfield, who trains Palladio for Haras Santa Maria de Araras. "We just have to discount that."

Palladio's last appearance on a dirt surface resulted in a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Skip Away in March at Gulfstream Park.

"I think he might like the dirt a little bit more than the Polytrack, actually," said Attfield. "I thought, for that money, trying this race was worthwhile. If he ran his race, he could be on the board for sure."

Richard Dos Ramos, Palladio's regular rider, will journey down for the mount.

Special television features

No wagering is available on the Cotillion or the Massachusetts Handicap, as neither of the host racetracks is being simulcast here Saturday, but both races will be broadcast as special features on Woodbine's HPI television.

Post times will be 4:01 p.m. for the Cotillion, 5:23 p.m. for the Mass Cap.

There will be simulcast wagering on the Louisiana Downs card, which will be shown in its entirety on HPI. Post time for the Super Derby here will be 6:10 p.m. Eastern.

Dancer's Bajan takes Overskate

Favored Dancer's Bajan ($6) overtook Main Executive in the final strides to capture the $125,000 Overskate Stakes here Wednesday night.

Main Executive and Stonetown hooked up on the front end in the seven-furlong sprint for Ontario-sired runners. They set lively fractions of 22.58 and 44.96 seconds before Main Executive took control at the top of the stretch.

Dancer's Bajan raced nearly four lengths off the lead on the backstretch under Corey Fraser and began to make up ground along the inside on the turn. He came off the rail at the sixteenth pole and got up for a half-length win in a time of 1:23.21.

Cool Selection, Main Executive's older half-brother, finished a length back in third, and Stonetown faded badly to trail the five-horse field.

"He was all class," said Fraser of Dancer's Bajan. "He was more aggressive early, which helped a little bit, so that he didn't have too much to do. He ran excellent."

Dancer's Bajan, the lone 3-year-old in the lineup, banked $75,000 for 3 Sons Racing Stable Ltd. and trainer Bob Tiller.

Valdivia given three-day ban

Jose Valdivia, who was in town last weekend to ride Arravale in the Woodbine Mile, picked up the mount on Singing Doe in a maiden race earlier on the program and was handed a three-day suspension for his ride there.

Singing finished first but was disqualified and placed third after the stewards ruled she had come in and interfered with two rivals on the turn.

Valdivia was to serve his suspension Thursday through Saturday, but was granted a one-day stay so he can compete in several stakes races at Kentucky Downs on Saturday.

* Singing Doe's disqualification was the second in three days for her owner, Stronach Stable, which also saw Saffron Rose taken down and placed fourth following her apparent victory here last Friday. Todd Kabel, who rode Saffron Rose, served a three-day suspension and will return Saturday.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink