06/29/2004 11:00PM

Sweet Problem finds rare spot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Having a top-class American-bred 3-year-old filly can be frustrating around these parts, with stakes opportunities for them being limited.

But the problem can be easier to accept when you have a filly as talented as Sweet Problem, a Kentucky-bred who is slated to run for trainer Lorne Richards and owner K.K. Sangara here in Saturday's $100,000 Hill 'n' Dale Stakes.

Sweet Problem won her maiden in her third start here last September and was claimed for $50,000 that day by Richards and Sangara.

In seven starts for them, Sweet Problem has banked $228,816.

Sweet Problem finished third in last fall's Glorious Song and this spring's Selene, and followed up by becoming a stakes winner over six furlongs on turf here in the June 13 Alywow.

"I liked that spot," said Richards, who was not particularly concerned that Sweet Problem was making her turf debut.

With most of the best 3-year-old fillies here Canadian-bred, and with the cream of the Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies heading to Fort Erie for Sunday's $250,000 Bison City Stakes, the 1 1/16-mile Hill 'n' Dale is an inviting spot for Sweet Problem.

Sweet Problem's only previous try at 1 1/16 miles came in the Grade 2 Selene, where she was beaten seven lengths by subsequent Woodbine Oaks winner and odds-on Bison City favorite Eye of the Sphynx. But Richards believes she is capable of better at the distance.

"We hadn't intended to run her in there," said Richards, noting that Sweet Problem had won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race against older rivals just nine days before the Selene.

Richards said that representatives of Kentucky-based Three Chimneys Farm, which has sold horses for Sangara in the past, pointed out that getting Sweet Problem graded stakes-placed would help her value. That was another reason he took a shot in the Selene.

Richards, who had clicked with 50 percent of his 24 starters at the meeting heading into this week's racing, points out that the next open stakes race for 3-year-old fillies is the Duchess, on Aug. 21.

New condition book, new conditions

The sixth condition book of the meeting began with Wednesday's program and, once again, horsemen discovered some changes.

Two new categories were unveiled, an Ontario-sired maiden race with a $16,000 optional claiming clause and an Ontario-sired allowance for non-winners of three.

"We decided to experiment with a couple of new types of races," said Chris Evans, Woodbine's director of racing. "We'll see how they go.

"I think we'll give them a couple of shots. If they don't attract enough entries, they'll be scrapped."

The first Ontario-sired allowance for non-winners of three was carded here Thursday, with a purse of $65,600 offered for the seven-furlong turf race for fillies and mares. A colts and geldings version will appear in the next condition book.

"The distance is the most popular on the grounds," said Evans. "If they don't fill reasonably well, we'll know we're going to have a difficult time."

Thursday's race drew 13 entrants.

Ontario-sired maiden and first-level allowance races began here in 2002.

"The maiden filled right from the beginning," said Evans. "The non-winners of two were fairly light but were getting fuller fields last year and are even better this year.

"Sometimes, you have to persevere a little bit."

Evans acknowledges that the maiden/optional claiming and first- and second-level allowance/optional claiming races have not been particularly well received and their claiming prices already have undergone some revisions.

Evans said most of negative feedback was over the fact that such races offered an easy target for a "legitimate" maiden special or allowance horse. Woodbine had believed that the significantly lower purses for these races would have been a deterrent to going for the easy money and losing the condition.

"To be fair, we have had some very legitimate horses drop in and win these races," said Evans. "I don't think the word's totally around, or at least it's not totally understood, that if you win one of these races you've blown an allowance condition."

The first Ontario-sired maiden race with a $16,000 claiming option was scheduled to be run here on Friday, but the seven-furlong race attracted only five fillies and mares and was passed over. The $21,000 purse is the same as the purse offered for regular maiden $16,000 claimers at a sprint distance.

"We already had maiden special weight races and open maiden races with a claiming option of $25,000," said Evans.

"We don't want to overdo that particular type of race, when you've got an Ontario-sired horse who can't compete.

"Right now we're trying to achieve a mix. When you don't want to run for a price, you don't have to."

Evans said new types of races are initiated by the direction of the racing committee, of which he and racing secretary Steve Lym are members.

Other committee members include David Willmot, Woodbine's chairman and chief executive officer; Hugh Mitchell, senior vice president, racing; John Whitson, vice president, Thoroughbred racing; and members of the board of directors such as Bob Anderson, Bill Graham, and Mark Frostad There is no official input from horsemen.

"The HBPA is free to make suggestions for races, which will be brought up with the racing committee," said Evans.

Perfect Soul ready for Churchill trip

Perfect Soul worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 on the turf training track here Wednesday and was slated to ship out the following morning for Churchill Downs and Saturday's Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Roger Attfield, who trains Perfect Soul for owner-breeder Charles Fipke, said Kentucky rider Larry Melancon has the call for the Grade 2, $250,000 Firecracker, a one-mile turf race.