08/06/2009 11:00PM

Sterwins stretching back out on turf

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sterwins, a closing second when he cut back in distance for the seven-furlong Ontario Jockey Club, looms the one to beat as he moves back out to 1 1/8 miles on the turf for Sunday's With Approval.

"He ran well last time," said Malcolm Pierce, who trains the homebred Sterwins for Eugene and Laura Melnyk. "He came flying late."

The $100,000 With Approval, an overnight stakes for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward, attracted a solid field of seven that also includes Ice Bear, who won the race last year when it was taken off the turf.

Sterwins, a 6-year-old gelding, won the Grade 3 Connaught Cup over 1 1/16 miles on grass in his local seasonal debut on May 24. His victims there included runner-up Rahy's Attorney, who turned the tables when he left Sterwins in second place in the Grade 2 King Edward at 1 1/8 miles on the turf here June 27.

With his stablemate Marchfield, who also is owned by the Melnyks, on tap for the 1 1/4-mile Nijinsky, Sterwins was tried in the July 18 Ontario Jockey Club with an eye toward the Play the King over the same distance and surface here Aug. 23. Starting at a distance of less than one mile for the first time since finishing second in the Ontario Jockey Club two years earlier, Sterwins trailed the field of six early and rallied to come up just a neck shy of Just Rushing.

"I thought we were pointing to go to the Play the King with him, but this race probably makes more sense right now," said Pierce, who will give regular rider Patrick Husbands a leg up for the With Approval.

Ice Bear, who defeated eventual older male champion Marchfield by a nose in last year's With Approval, was entered in last Monday's Seagram Cup at 1 1/16 miles on the main track but was scratched.

"I just didn't think it was a good spot, with us giving weight to all those horses," said Benson. "I would have run him if there'd been nowhere else to go."

Ice Bear tuned up for the With Approval with a seven-furlong breeze in 1:27.80 on the training turf course last Sunday under apprentice rider Michelle Rainford.

"He started out slow but a filly of mine joined in at the five-eighths pole and he went his last five-eighths exceptionally well," said Benson, estimating Ice Bear's clocking for that span at 1:00.60.

Chantal Sutherland has her usual call aboard Ice Bear for the With Approval.

Just Rushing, the 8-year-old gelding who won the Ontario Jockey Club, has yet to run farther than 1 1/16 miles in his 35-start career.

Rounding out the field are Society's Chairman and Sligovitz, from trainer Roger Attfield's stable; the hard-knocking but win-shy French Beret; and the in-form Cobotown Ron.

Closing in on stakes win

Analisa Delmas, who started training here in 2006, experienced the headiest moment of her career last Sunday watching Guipago rally to finish second in the $503,200 Breeders' Stakes.

"It was pretty hard for him to win with all that traffic," said Delmas, who trains Guipago for the Fieldstone Farm of her father, Ron Delmas. "To see him pop out and come driving . . . it was such a thrill to see him cross the line second in that company."

On Sunday, Delmas will be looking for her first stakes victory with Cobotown Ron in the With Approval.

Cobotown Ron, a 5-year-old gelding, became stakes placed in the Grade 3 Singspiel over 1 1/2 miles on turf here June 21 and followed up with a solid score in the allowance prep for the Nijinsky over 1 1/4 miles on the grass.

"Those were peak performances," said Delmas, who has sent out Cobotown Ron to win 6 of 33 starts and $304,346 through his 33-race career. "He came out of the race well, and seems to be training well into this one."

Cobotown Ron, a homebred, won his maiden for a $19,000 claiming price in his eighth and final outing as a 2-year-old. Unfortunately, Cobotown Ron then underwent surgery for a broken leg but defied the odds and resurfaced the following August at the $10,000 level.

Cobotown Ron, in one of the 2007 season's Cinderella stories, went on to win 4 of his next 8 starts capped by a score under second-level allowance terms.

But, the clock struck midnight last year as Cobotown Ron went 0 for 12 before being was put away in mid-October.

"The leg was niggling him a bit," said Delmas. "We worked on it, and wrapped up earlier to give him time.

"It seems to have paid off. He's come back better than ever."

Rainford in race-riding comeback

With no ado, Michelle Rainford rode competitively for the first time in than two years, guiding Awake by Noon to a fifth-place finish in the final race on Thursday's program.

"It went as well as could be expected first time back," said Rainford here Friday morning. "I was nervous, but the right kind of nervous - excited nervous."

Rainford, 29, had ridden 25 winners in 2007 when she emerged from a June 21 spill with a concussion that required a lengthy period of recuperation. She had ridden 65 winners the previous year in her first full campaign.

"I was so much more prepared to come back this time than I had been other times when I hadn't rode over the winter," said Rainford, who has been galloping horses for trainer Scott Fairlie for the past couple of months. "I'm fitter, and stronger. I really worked out hard. I did a lot a groundwork before I ever went near a horse, and it's paid off."

Agent Alan Raymond again will represent Rainford, who has been granted an extension of her apprentice allowance through Nov. 1.

Ramsammy back after spill

Emile Ramsammy, who was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital after his mount ducked in and unseated him here Thursday, was back in the saddle on Friday afternoon after getting a clean bill of health from doctors.

"He had a Cat Scan, and X-rays, and they came out fine," said Ramsammy's agent, Neal Wilson. "He hurt his foot a little, when he got hung up a bit coming off."

Ramsammy finished ninth of 11 in Friday's fifth race aboard 20-1 shot Beau Jess.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will hold its monthly meeting beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on the third-floor Champions area. New members and guests are welcome.