08/05/2008 11:00PM

Sugar Bay seeks Duchess upset


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sugar Bay, a sharp winner over seven furlongs last time out, will be looking to spring an upset when she swings back in the $150,000 Duchess at the same distance here Saturday.

"I kind of think this is her trip, right now," said Mac Benson, who trains Sugar Bay for owner and breeder George Strawbridge Jr.

"She has a bit of speed. We were trying to use it going long, but she just didn't seem to be cooperating the way we wanted her to."

After winning her maiden over six furlongs in her seasonal bow, Sugar Bay stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for a first-level allowance and was a solid runner-up.

That effort earned Sugar Bay a shot at the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks, in which she was prominent early but faltered to finish sixth in the field of 12.

Three weeks later, Sugar Bay returned in the 1 1/16-mile Bison City and set the pace before finishing fourth, beaten just two lengths.

But when cutting back in distance on July 18 under new rider Chantal Sutherland, Sugar Bay was running ninth in the early going and rallied four-wide to win going away by a length.

"I thought her race was really big the other day," said Benson. "I wanted to get her out of that speed bit. The girl was good at getting her to relax."

Sugar Bay prepped for the Duchess with a five-furlong breeze in 59.80 seconds under Sutherland on Sunday.

The Duchess, for 3-year-old fillies, attracted a field of eight, headed by Dancing Allstar, who was Canada's champion juvenile filly and will be making her first start at the meeting.

Ice Bear heads to With Approval

Ice Bear, another Strawbridge homebred in the Benson barn, is heading for Sunday's $100,000 With Approval, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward.

The catch may be that the With Approval is an overnight stakes and needs a field of at least five to be carded. Entries were to be taken Thursday.

"I hope he gets to run there," said Benson. "He's been doing great."

Ice Bear, a 4-year-old gelding, opened his current campaign with a half-length victory in a third-level optional claiming race over one mile of turf here May 30.

Four weeks later, Ice Bear stretched out to 1 1/8 miles for the Grade 2 King Edward and ran the race of his life only to be beaten a half-length as the runner-up to Royal Oath over a yielding surface.

"That was a very, very good race," said Benson.

Ice Bear next tried seven furlongs in the Ontario Jockey Club, a seven-furlong overnight turf stakes for Ontario-foals, and finished seventh as the 9-5 choice.

"Maybe it was because I tried to go from a mile and an eighth to seven furlongs a little too close," said Benson. "If I'd had a little more time, I could have sharpened him up.

"But I don't think he had the smoothest trip. He got into some trouble. When you're going that fast, he's not the type of horse you can stop and go on."

Shilla out of Duchess

Shilla, who had been expected to be a Duchess contender, is not in the lineup.

"She's just not doing as well as I'd like her to," said Martha Gonzalez, wife and assistant to Nick Gonzalez, who conditions Shilla for owner/breeder Brian Cullen.

The decision to skip the Duchess followed Shilla's four-furlong drill in 48.80 under regular rider David Clark last Saturday

Shilla had worked in company with stablemate Delaforce, a 3-year-old gelding who was third in the restricted Deputy Minister here last time out.

"David just wasn't happy, and I go a lot by that," said Martha Gonzalez. "Delaforce had her at his will."

Shilla opened up her campaign with back-to-back scores here in the six-furlong La Voyageuse and seven-furlong Fury, but then finished last of 12 in the Canadian Oaks on June 8.

In her only subsequent appearance, Shilla ended up fourth in the Ontario Damsel over 6 1/2 furlongs of turf on July 6.

"She just hasn't been herself since the Oaks," said Gonzalez. "She has no leg problems; she's just been very flat on her feet.

"Maybe it's the heat. She's just too valuable to take a chance with."

Win and Reign in Vandal

Win and Reign will represent the Gonzalez barn in Sunday's Vandal, a six-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 2-year-olds.

Owned and bred by Garland Williamson, who recently transferred his horses to the Gonzalez outfit, Win and Reign is a half-brother to notables Cool Gator and Like a Gem.

"He's a beautiful horse," said Martha Gonzalez. "He's very athletic. He loves training. He's happiest when he's out of his stall."

Win and Reign has raced just once, showing speed before evening out to finish fourth in an open six-furlong maiden race.

"He's doing very well," said Gonzalez. "We got a race into him, and he was one work away from being ready to run."

Krz Exec to Eternal Search

Krz Exec, who won the Ontario Damsel in her seasonal bow, also was nominated to the Duchess but will await the $125,000 Eternal Search, a 1o1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies here Aug. 27.

"She'll stick with her friends," said trainer Mike DePaulo, after watching Krz Exec breeze six furlongs in 1:13 under regular rider Jerry Baird here Wednesday.

"She's made most of her money going long. I figured the last race she won was a bonus."

Krz Exec wound up her first campaign with wins in the 1 1/16-mile South Ocean for Ontario-sired fillies and the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie for Ontario-foaled fillies.

Tenjectory also goes for DePaulo

DePaulo has a second Eternal Search candidate in Tenjectory, who is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Wonder Where over 1 1/4 miles of turf. "We just did a throat surgery on her," said DePaulo. "Turning for home in her last race, we thought she was going to be third.

"We scoped her, and she had an entrapped epiglottis."