05/06/2009 12:00AM

Sugar Bay set to get going

Michael Burns
Sugar Bay, here closing out '08 by winning the Carotene, is headed for the May 30 Nassau.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sugar Bay is all dressed up with no place to go.

Sugar Bay, a 4-year-old filly trained by Mac Benson, was entered in a classified allowance here Friday. The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares, which was situated as a prep for the Nassau, offered a purse of $101,100 including Ontario-bred bonuses but did not fill for Friday and was carried over until Saturday and then to Sunday.

"She's as ready as you can get her without overdoing it," said Benson, who trains Sugar Bay for owner/breeder George Strawbridge Jr.

"I was hoping to use this to get her to the Nassau. Now, if I go to the Nassau I'll just have to go right there."

The Nassau, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares to be run May 30, offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $300,000.

Sugar Bay closed out her 3-year-old campaign with five consecutive victories, including four stakes.

After winning the Duchess over seven furlongs on Polytrack, Sugar Bay captured the Ontario Colleen over one mile on turf, the La Lorgnette over 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack, and the Carotene over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

All of those successes came against 3-year-old fillies and made her a Sovereign Award finalist in both the 3-year-old filly and turf female categories.

"It's nice to have them as a champion, but she did everything we had asked her to do," said Benson.

After wintering along with the rest of the Benson string at Payson Park in Florida, Sugar Bay returned to Woodbine in mid-April.

"I gave them the month of December off, and started everything back about the first of January," said Benson.

Sugar Bay certainly hasn't shown any signs of rust in the mornings, turning in three solid trials here, including a bullet five furlongs in 58 seconds here last Sunday.

"That was an exceptionally good move the other day," said Benson.

Ice Bear headed for Connaught Cup

Ice Bear, the other big horse in Benson's barn last year, is slated to make his first start of the season here in the May 24 Connaught Cup.

"If I want to run him in the Connaught, I'll have to go straight to the race," said Benson.

The Connaught Cup, a Grade 3, $150,000 turf race, is run over 1 1/16 miles and is the first turf stakes of the meeting.

Ice Bear, like Sugar Bay, proved equally adept on both Polytrack and turf last year and was a finalist in the Sovereign Award older horse balloting. A 5-year-old gelding who also is owned and was bred by Strawbridge, Ice Bear won the restricted With Approval over 1 1/8 miles on the main track and the open Labeeb over one mile on the turf.

Ice Bear also placed in Grade 2 stakes on both surfaces and was fourth, beaten just 3 3/4 lengths, in the Woodbine Mile.

"He's coming right along, too," said Benson, who sent out Ice Bear to work five furlongs in 1:00.80 here last Sunday.

Chantal Sutherland, who was 3 for 3 aboard Sugar Bay and 2 for 4 aboard Ice Bear last year, has the calls for the upcoming stakes.

"She gets along with both those horses extremely well," said Benson.

Stray Cat Stride stepping up

While Ontario Sire Stakes veterans such as Legal Move and Dancer's Bajan are among the field of 10 for Saturday's $125,000 New Providence, Stray Cat Stride will be making his stakes debut and just his seventh start in the restricted six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward.

"This was our plan, seeing as he'd won his Ontario-sired conditions, to try some of these stakes," said trainer Danny O'Callaghan, who conditions Stray Cat Stride for owner/breeder Ian Jamieson. "We'll see how he handles the company, and go from there. He hasn't run any bad races yet."

Stray Cat Stride, a 4-year-old gelding, finished fourth in his debut here last May and then won his maiden in a dead heat and a first-level allowance in his next two outings. O'Callaghan then supplemented Stray Cat Stride to the Deputy Minister, an Ontario-sire stakes here in July, but had to scratch the gelding after he came up lame the morning of the race.

"I was going to put him away after that, but he healed up rather quickly," said O'Callaghan.

Stray Cat Stride returned from a layoff of more than four months to win a third-level restricted allowance here Nov. 5 and then was third in an open first-level allowance in his final start of the season on Nov. 16.

After starting up this winter at the nearby farm of Paul Buttigieg, Stray Cat Stride returned to the racetrack in mid-February and finished a competitive third making his seasonal bow in a first-level allowance on April 19.

Stray Cat Stride had his final tune-up for the New Providence here Sunday, breezing four furlongs under regular rider Richard Dos Ramos in 48 seconds.

Hello Maggie May fires bullet

Hello Maggie May breezed four furlongs in a bullet 45.60 seconds here Wednesday under Dos Ramos, who will pick up the mount for Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Hendrie, a 6 1/2-furlong race for fillies and mares.

"That's fine," said trainer Roger Attfield, who had no concerns over the briskness of Hello Maggie May's move.

"I think she'll run very well, that filly."

Hello Maggie May, a homebred who races for Bill Graham, became a stakes winner here last fall in the 6 1/2-furlong Ruling Angel, an overnight stakes for 3-year-old fillies, before winding up her campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Jammed Lovely.

Returning to action here on April 18 in the Grade 3 Whimsical at six furlongs, Hello Maggie May stalked the pace and finished an even fourth.

"I thought she ran well," said Attfield. "But I know how she went about it. That won't work."

In Hello Maggie May's best efforts, including the Ruling Angel, she has closed from farther off the pace.

Attfield turfers breeze

A pair of Attfield-trained turf horses breezed four furlongs here Wednesday, with Callwood Dancer going in 49.20 seconds and Society's Chairman in 50.

Callwood Dancer, a 5-year-old who was Canada's champion turf female last year, is aiming for the Nassau, in which she became a stakes winner last year. Society's Chairman, a 6-year-old horse, is eyeing the Connaught Cup, in which he finished second when making his stakes debut last year.