09/17/2009 11:00PM

Sterwins takes a shot in Mile

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Michael Burns
Sterwins will do his running late in Sunday's Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When Malcolm Pierce returned home this spring with Sterwins following a campaign at Fair Grounds and Keeneland, the Woodbine Mile was not on his agenda.

But come Sunday, Sterwins will be among the 10 starters in the Grade 1, $1 million turf race for 3-year-olds and up and has to be accorded a fighting chance.

"He's done well," Pierce said. "He's done everything we've asked him. He hasn't had a bad race here all year."

Sterwins won his local seasonal bow, edging defending Woodbine Mile champion Rahy's Attorney in the Grade 3 Connaught Cup over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

And although Rahy's Attorney turned the tables with a one-length victory in the Grade 2 King Edward over 1 1/8 miles, Sterwins seemed set to embark on a two-turn turf campaign in the 1 3/8-mile Sky Classic

But the homebred Sterwins is owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, who had watched last year's champion older horse Marchfield win the Grade 3 Dominion Day for trainer Mark Casse over 1 1/4 miles on Polytrack here July 1.

When the decision was made to switch Marchfield to turf in search of more distance opportunities, Sterwins became a candidate for the shorter Woodbine Mile.

Marchfield has made a successful transition, finishing second behind Rahy's Attorney in the Nijinsky and then winning the 1 3/8-mile Sky Classic, and will be among the favorites for Sunday's Grade 1, $750,000 Northern Dancer at 1 1/2 miles.

Sterwins, meanwhile, closed strongly to finish second in the Ontario Jockey Club over seven furlongs on grass and then won the off-the-turf With Approval at 1 1/8 miles in his last start here Aug. 9. Both the Ontario Jockey Club and the With Approval are overnight stakes for Ontario foals.

"I was very happy that I had about six weeks to freshen him into this race," Pierce said. "His last two races have been good, but obviously this is the toughest spot he's ever been in.

"I just hope I have him sharp enough."

Pierce, who acknowledges that the mile still is on the short side for Sterwins, also is hoping for a quick and contested pace.

"His style's not going to change," Pierce said. "He's going to come with that big kick."

Leading rider Patrick Husbands, who retains the mount on Sterwins, won the 2001 running of the Woodbine Mile aboard Numerous Times.

Sid Attard, who trained Numerous Times, will send out Jungle Wave for Sunday's renewal.

Barbados well-represented in Mile

The Melnyks, who live in the Barbados, are part of a strong Barbadian presence for this year's Woodbine Mile.

Daylight Express has the closest link, having made all of his starts in Barbados.

His owner, Lord Michael Taylor, is the director and executive steward of the Barbados Turf Club and the leading owner in the country.

Trainer Robert Peirce and jockey Anderson Ward, who checked in with Daylight Express three weeks ago, also top their respective leader boards in their homeland.

Sand Cove is owned by Ralph Johnson, an avid sportsman who is a member of the Barbados National Olympic Committee board.

Daylight Express has been dominating his competition at home, winning his last four races, including the prestigious Barbados Gold Cup over about 1 1/8 miles on turf. The Virginia-bred colt will become the third Barbados Gold Cup winner to compete in the Woodbine Mile.

Blast of Storm finished ninth in the field of 14, beaten 6 3/4 lengths, in the 2001 Woodbine Mile after winning his second consecutive Barbados Gold Cup in March.

Incitatus, who won the Barbados Gold Cup in 1997, relocated to Woodbine that summer. Trained by Ron Burke, Incitatus also finished ninth, beaten 6 3/4 lengths, in the field of 15 for the Woodbine Mile in 1999 after capturing the Grade 2 Connaught Cup that fall.

Daylight Express was on the main turf course here Friday morning, breezing three furlongs in 39.40 seconds under Ward.

"It was a very easy breeze, just to put some air in him," said Pierce, adding that Daylight Express follows a similar regimen at home.

Sand Cove is coming into the Woodbine Mile off a 3 3/4-length score in the 1 1/16-mile Elgin, a yearling sales stakes for colts and geldings here Sept. 7.

Last year, Sand Cove won the Bunty Lawless and Vice Regent, a pair of one-mile turf stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds. Rahy's Attorney also won both those stakes before blossoming last year to upset the Woodbine Mile.

"Looking at his form, you might make an argument that he's better on turf," said Roger Attfield, who also sent out Sand Cove to win the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby on Woodbine's main track last year.

"He's doing very well, but he'll be coming back into a tough race in just 13 days."

Jambalaya scores in return

Jambalaya, making his first start since winning the Grade 1 Arlington Million on Aug. 11, 2007, cruised to a two-length victory in a here Friday afternoon.

Jono Jones, riding Jambalaya for the first time since a ninth-place finish here in the 2006 Canadian International, had the 7-year-old laying last in the field of four but moved to the lead turning into the stretch and pulled away through the last furlong.

"He was fantastic; he's as good as ever," Jones said. "When I asked him, it was just a matter of how much he was going to win by."

Catherine Day Phillips, who trains Jambalaya and races the gelding under the banner of her family's Kingfield Farm, was ecstatic following the victory.

"It's awesome; it just feels so good," said Day Phillips, who was getting Jambalaya back to the races after several previous comeback attempts.

"The other times, we were trying to make him come back. This time, everything kind of fell into place. He's taken us here."

While Day Phillips was extremely pleased with Jambalaya's physical condition, she admitted to some trepidation coming into Friday's classified allowance race.

"He's been training as well as he ever trained," Day Phillips said. "But where that put him fitness-wise, running against horses who had been racing, I didn't know."

Jambalaya had the answer as he finished in 1:41.70 and returned $6.20 as the second choice.

Fifteen Love, favored off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Play the King, finished second.

Jambalaya earned $54,120 to bring his career bankroll to $1,743,859.

Musketier looks to rebound

Musketier, a German-bred 7-year-old owned by Johana Glen-Teven, will represent the Attfield barn in the Northern Dancer.

Musketier won the Grade 3 Singspiel over 1 1/2 miles of turf here June 21 and then finished second behind the formidable Gio Ponti when traveling 1 3/8 miles over the grass in Belmont's Grade 1 Man o' War.

But in his last start, which came in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Saratoga, Musketier became involved in a protracted speed duel and tired to finish ninth in the field of 10.

Rafael Bejarano will ride Musketier for the first time in the Northern Dancer.

Woodbine Mile television coverage

The Woodbine Mile and Northern Dancer will be televised live in a two-hour special beginning at 4 p.m. on The Score.

Hosts Jeff Bratt and Jim Bannon will be joined by Renee Kierans and Sandy Hawley on the broadcast directed by Rob Platts and produced by Matt Taylor.

TVG also will be on hand at Woodbine to produce its own broadcast for its audience in the United States. The hosts will be Todd Schrupp, Simon Bray, and Paul Lo Duca.

HRTV also will provide coverage of the races.

* Woodbine oddsmaker and Daily Racing Form contributor Jennifer Morrison will host a Woodbine Mile Day seminar beginning at 11 a.m. on the third floor of the grandstand Sunday.