08/31/2006 12:00AM

Strike Softly a new horse on turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Strike Softly should be the favorite under turf ace Todd Kabel in Saturday's $125,000 Ontario Colleen Stakes, a one-mile event for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine.

Strike Softly was a useful dirt runner until trainer Mark Frostad put her on the grass for the July 9 Ontario Damsel, which she won from just off the pace going 6 1/2 furlongs.

Strike Softly established a moderate pace last time out in the $252,800 Wonder Where Stakes, and finished a close second to Like a Gem.

"She ran a great race in the Wonder Where," Frostad said. "She made all the pace going a mile and a quarter on soft turf, and I don't think she saw [Like a Gem] coming. It was too bad to lose that one."

Frostad said Strike Softly got sick prior to the June 11 Woodbine Oaks, in which she finished seventh as the surprising favorite.

"She hadn't been eating for a few days before the Oaks, but she came back well," Frostad said. "It wasn't an ideal situation, but we thought we'd take a shot anyway."

Frostad said Strike Softly has trained encouragingly since the Wonder Where.

"She's in good order," Frostad said. "A mile should suit her perfectly."

Like a Gem is one of three Danny Vella-trained fillies in the 13-horse field.

Like a Gem also got sick prior to the Oaks, and was never in contention in the nine-furlong race. After running sixth in the Ontario Damsel, she took the Wonder Where at 48-1, then finished sixth in the Duchess Stakes on the inner dirt track.

Our Madison, also a nonfactor in the Oaks, won the allowance prep for the Ontario Colleen after ending up eighth in the Wonder Where.

Trainer Red Johnson said bad gate behavior has been a telltale sign of an impending subpar showing from Our Madison.

"You can throw out any of her races when she was nuts in the gate," Johnson said, mentioning the Wonder Where and the Oaks as two examples. "Last time, she went right in - she was perfect in the gate. I think she's okay now."

Top Notch Lady, victorious in the Grade 3 Bourbonette BC Stakes over Turfway's Polytrack in March, has been absent since running third here May 24 in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes. She won her 2-year-old debut on the grass, and was second in her only other turf outing at 2, in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes.