07/06/2006 11:00PM

Strike Softly, Like a Gem in better shape now


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Strike Softly and Like a Gem failed to show their true colors in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks on June 11.

But both Strike Softly and Like a Gem had legitimate excuses that day and will be looking to regroup in Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Damsel, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies.

The Woodbine Oaks was just the second start of the season for Strike Softly, who had finished a troubled third when making her seasonal debut in the seven-furlong Fury five weeks earlier.

Strike Softly, owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, was sent off as the 2.40-1 favorite in the Woodbine Oaks only to finish 22 lengths back in seventh place.

Frostad attributed the performance to the likelihood that Strike Softly that was still feeling the lingering effects of a virus that was running rampant here that month.

"We were taking a shot at that point," He said. "Hopefully, she's fully recovered now."

Strike Softly, a homebred by Smart Strike, worked a smart five furlongs in 59.20 seconds here last Saturday but will be trying turf for the first time in the Ontario Damsel.

"I have every reason to think she'll be fine on turf," said Frostad. "Most of the Smart Strikes are good on turf."

Like a Gem, who had finished a close second in the Fury, also missed significant training time heading into the Woodbine Oaks after suffering from the same virus.

Sent off as the 4-1 second choice in the Woodbine Oaks, Like a Gem trailed home last of 10, beaten 43 lengths.

"She's back to her old self now," said Danny Vella, who trains Like a Gem for owner-breeder Garland Williamson's Hillsbrook Farm.

"She's doing well, training well. She's put a little weight on."

Like a Gem also will be trying grass for the first time and had been scheduled to breeze on the turf training course here Tuesday. That session was canceled, however, and Like a Gem was rerouted to the training track, where she breezed five furlongs in 59 seconds.

Seaside Retreat bound for Virginia

Seaside Retreat, winner of the Charlie Barley over one mile on turf here in his last start June 25, is slated to ship out Wednesday evening for Colonial Downs. The target for the Kentucky-bred Seaside Retreat is Saturday's Grade 2, $1 million Virginia Derby, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.

"His last race was easy on him," said trainer Mark Casse, who watched Seaside Retreat win the $100,000 Charlie Barley by 4 1/2 lengths.

Seaside Retreat has earned a reputation as a rather single-minded sort, refusing to follow his training regimen on occasion and being extremely reluctant to come to the winner's circle following the Charlie Barley.

"If he behaves himself, even a little bit, he could be really tough down there," said Casse.

Stakes doubleheader

Woodbine will present a turf stakes doubleheader here next Saturday, with the Grade 2 Dance Smartly and the Toronto Cup, both going at 1 1/8 miles.

The $300,000 Dance Smartly is for fillies and mares, while the $150,000 Toronto Cup is for 3-year-olds.

Sunday's feature will be the $150,000 Shady Well, a five-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies.

But the eyes of Woodbine also will be on Fort Erie next Sunday as the $500,000 Prince of Wales, the second jewel in Canada's Triple Crown, will be in the spotlight.

The deadline for entries for the Prince of Wales, a 1 3/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, is 10 a.m. Wednesday. The field will be announced at a special post position draw beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

* Apprentice jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson is scheduled to serve a three-day suspension on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after dropping her appeal of an earlier ruling.

* Apprentice jockey Dean Deverell began a three-day suspension on Saturday after the stewards ruled him guilty of "riding in a careless manner" aboard Birdie Run here June 29.

* Woodbine will be adding Colonial Downs to its simulcast menu on Mondays this month. There will be common-pool wagering with Colonial Downs.