07/28/2006 12:00AM

Track big hurdle for favorite


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - American shipper Gouldings Green looks almost unbeatable on paper in Sunday's $150,000 Chinese Cultural Centre Seagram Cup Stakes at Woodbine.

But the fact that the Grade 3 race is being contested over the tight-turned inner dirt track makes it a bit more wide open. Odds-on favorites Tothemoonandback, Judiths Wild Rush, and Datrick have all lost stakes over the seven-furlong inner track, and Gouldings Green may need a little racing luck to prevail in the 1 1/16-mile event.

Gouldings Green, trained by Tony Reinstedler for Melnyk Racing Stable, has won three of five starts this year, for earnings of $230,461. After taking his season

opener in an optional claimer at Oaklawn, he finished third behind Buzzards Bay and Magnum in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap.

Gouldings Green won the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba Stakes May 5 at Churchill, then took the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup Handicap at Arlington by disqualification. Most recently, he was a flat third going 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 2 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"He's been running with top company," Reinstedler said. "He always runs well and hard, but a mile and an eighth is just a little farther than he wants to go. The Oaklawn Handicap was at a mile and an eighth. It was a good race, but he got a little late the last 70 yards."

Reinstedler said the Seagram Cup is a suitable spot for Gouldings Green, who has earned a Beyer Speed Figure of either 102 or 103 in each of his last three outings.

"It's hard to find a two-turn dirt race, either graded or non-graded, at this time of year," Reinstedler explained. "They're either Grade 1's, or worth $50,000. This race is in the middle, and it's a nice fit for us. It was really our best option."

Barbeau Ruckus is the most accomplished local runner in the 10-horse field. He is also nominated to next Sunday's Shepperton Stakes, and could be scratched in favor of that restricted race, according to trainer George Newland.

Barbeau Ruckus was a fast-closing fourth in his season opener in the six-furlong New Providence Stakes. He is coming off an upset score over favored Arch Hall in the 1 1/16-mile Steady Growth, another Ontario Sire Stakes.

Barbeau Ruckus is large in stature, but Newland said he isn't overly concerned with the gelding handling the inner-track turns.

"He's got speed," Newland said. "He should be all right."