06/04/2006 11:00PM

Trial victory establishes Pipers Thunder

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Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Pipers Thunder, with Ray Sabourin aboard, wins the Plate Trial in his third start. He did not race at age 2.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Pipers Thunder came into Sunday's 1 1/8-mile here at Woodbine with much to prove.

Pipers Thunder did not debut until March, when he finished a well-beaten sixth at one mile at Gulfstream, and then won his maiden here at 1 1/16 miles in his next and only subsequent start here, on May 13.

But now Pipers Thunder has become a colt who will command a serious following on the road to the June 25 Queen's Plate after dispatching seven more seasoned opponents under rider Ray Sabourin.

"We came into the race hoping he'd finish in the top three," said Eric Coatrieux, who trains Pipers Thunder for the Chiefswood Stable of Robert and Mark Krembil. "He's always shown a lot of ability, but coming into a race like this you're never sure."

Pipers Thunder came to Ontario and the Chiefswood Farm headquarters late last May but never got on track as a 2-year-old.

"He'd breezed a little bit, in Ocala, but he got a little sore," said Coatrieux. "As soon as he got here, he was 'wrong,' we did a scan, and found a slight suspensory problem.

"He spent most of the year in the field. He didn't start training until the early part of December."

Still, Pipers Thunder headed south to Palm Meadows carrying the Queen's Plate hopes of Coatrieux and the Krembils, who won the 2004 Queen's Plate with Niigon.

"He was the only one I had with a bit of a chance to make it, and that was a longshot," said Coatrieux.

When Pipers Thunder began outworking Alleged Ruler, an older stakes-placed stablemate, his odds of making the Queen's Plate began improving.

"He beat him every time," said Coatrieux, who trained Pipers Thunder in company with Alleged Ruler at both Palm Meadows and Keeneland.

Now Pipers Thunder will be attempting to stretch out to the Queen's Plate's 1 1/4 miles, a trip which Coatrieux believes will be no obstacle. Pipers Thunder's Beyer Speed Figure for the Plate Trial was a career-best but relatively modest 81.

And Pipers Thunder probably will have to deal with some serious players who were not in the $151,200 Plate Trial, such as Wanna Runner, Malakoff, and Shillelagh Slew.

Wanna Runner, based in California with trainer Bob Baffert, earned a Beyer Figure of 98 for his last-out win in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby.

Malakoff is heading for the Queen's Plate off a smashing score in the Grade 3 Marine at 1 1/16 miles here May 20 for trainer Brian Lynch, with his Beyer Figure a 92.

Shillelagh Slew, who missed the Marine because of illness and throat surgery and is training up to the Queen's Plate for trainer Mike DePaulo, worked an impressive seven furlongs in 1:26.40 here last Saturday.

"He's going to have to face a few more tough ones," acknowledges Coatrieux. "But at least he's going well. He keeps on improving - that's what you want."

Early arrival a concern

One scenario that concerns Coatrieux is Woodbine's new big-race surveillance rule, which will require Queen's Plate horses to be on the grounds no later than 8:30 a.m. on the Tuesday morning before Sunday's Plate.

The Chiefswood horses train and live on the relatively tranquil Chiefswood Farm, about an hour north of here, and come into the track only for the occasional workout and to race.

Pipers Thunder, said Coatrieux, "is an easygoing horse. He would probably deal with it, if he had to. But, I don't think it's really fair. It gives an advantage to the horses stabled here."

Near-miss in Nassau

Coatrieux and Chiefswood almost had a perfect weekend as Ambitious Cat, a 5-year-old mare of theirs, fell just three-quarters of a length shy of recording her first stakes victory as the runner-up to shipper Naissance Royale in Saturday's $308,900 Nassau Stakes.

Naissance Royale is trained in New York by Christophe Clement, who was represented here Saturday by assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul.

The Clement stable won three major races here last year, with Relaxed Gesture taking the $2 million Canadian International and Steel Light capturing the $502,800 Nearctic on Oct. 23 after Revved Up won the $335,800 Niagara on Sept. 5.

Kent Desormeaux, who rode Naissance Royale, was competing here for the first time since 2003, when he guided Touch of the Blues to victory in the Atto Mile.

Desormeaux also won the 1998 Woodbine Mile with Labeeb and the 1998 Queen's Plate with Archers Bay.

Huge day for Tiller

Trainer Bob Tiller had his best day of the meeting here Sunday, sending out four winners from seven entrants.

Tiller won both ends of the early daily double ($30.20) with Fantom Executive ($6.50) and Pretty Prissy ($18.10). He also won the fourth race with Dave the Knave and signed off with the victorious Disorderinthecourt ($7.30), who prevailed by a nose in the ninth.

Spread the News, a first-time starter, came agonizingly close for Tiller in the fifth race, beaten a head as a very unlucky runner-up.

Corey Fraser rode three of the four Tiller winners.

"With a little luck we could have won five," said Tiller. "But we could have got beat a nose in that last race, too.

"It was a thrilling day," he said. "I'm very pleased. It's tough enough to win one or two a day. It's like a war."

Tiller's four-bagger was the second of his career. On July 24, 1994, he sent out four winners, including Blitzer in the Kennedy Road.