08/19/2004 12:00AM

Tuff Justice takes scenic route to Ontario

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Tuff Justice, who is on the grounds for Sunday's Ontario Debutante Stakes, has taken an unusual route to Woodbine.

Bred in Kentucky by her owners, who race as Justice Farm, Tuff Justice debuted at Prairie Meadows this spring, raced in the Canterbury Lassie at Canterbury Park, and then shipped to Assiniboia Downs for the Winnipeg Futurity.

Tuff Justice, trained by John Betts, arrived here Wednesday for the Ontario Debutante, a six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies.

Justice Farm, based in Lexington, Ky., is basically a breed-to-sell operation. "They usually race the ones they choose not to sell, or who don't sell," explained Betts, who began his training career in Maryland in 1986.

"This year has been a fairly light year; I've had about a dozen in training."

Betts, based in Ocala, Fla., for the early months of the season, comes north to race in late spring with Kentucky his usual destination.

This year, however, Prairie Meadows was the outfit's first destination, with Canterbury, where Betts still has 10 horses, next on the agenda.

Tuff Justice wasted no time in making her presence felt in Iowa, winning comfortably in her debut at five furlongs for a $47.20 payoff. She then finished a non-threatening fourth in her stakes debut there at the same distance.

In her next start, the Canterbury Lassie in Minnesota, Tuff Justice ended second, beaten a nose at 5 1/2 furlongs, before continuing north to Manitoba and defeating males in the six-furlong Winnipeg Futurity.

"I normally don't run fillies against the boys," said Betts, pointing out he had the Ontario Debutante in mind as a long-range goal. "I wanted to get a six-furlong race into her. There was nothing for her in the Midwest."

Betts acknowledged that getting Tuff Justice a stakes placing here would aid the Justice Farm cause in an additional fashion, as she has a half-brother selling in Kentucky this fall.

"I'm realistic," said Justice. "If she could hit the board, that would be wonderful."

Jason Eads, based at Prairie Meadows, has ridden Tuff Justice in her last three starts and has the call Sunday.

Casse takes two shots

Extra Bases and Shout to the North, both second-time-out winners for trainer Mark Casse, also are earmarked for the Debutante.

Dino Luciani will retain the mount on Extra Bases, with Patrick Husbands again getting the call on Shout to the North.

Extra Bases, a Florida-bred, finished a closing fourth in her five-furlong debut here July 9 and then rallied to capture a 6 1/2-furlong off-the-turf race on a fast track Aug. 1.

"She kind of got penned down inside, and she was rallying late," said Casse.

Shout to the North, a California-bred, ran second in her debut over six furlongs on turf and then won her maiden over 6 1/2 furlongs of sloppy going.

"She broke in the air, and was left four or five lengths, but she came running late," said Casse.

Two shippers in small Duchess

The Duchess Stakes, by dint of its Grade 3 status and $150,000-added purse, has attracted its share of shippers in recent seasons.

Saturday's edition of the Duchess is no exception as Boston Express, currently based at Belmont with trainer Jimmy Jerkens, and Cherish Destiny, who has been racing at Monmouth for trainer Doug O'Neill, will take on just three locals in the seven-furlong feature.

Boston Express, who will be making her first start for Jerkens, is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup over six furlongs at Calder.

Immediately prior to that, Boston Express recorded a wire-to-wire 9 3/4-length romp in the six-furlong Dixie Miss at Louisiana Downs, recording a Beyer Speed Figure of 106, which is tops in the Duchess field.

Cherish Destiny was placed first via a disqualification in the six-furlong Dearly Precious at Monmouth on June 27 but was a non-factor when making her next start there in the Trenton, finishing seventh over five furlongs of sloppy going.

Todd Kabel has picked up the mount on Cherish Destiny while Husbands gets the call on Boston Express.

Organ Grinder headed to Northlands

Organ Grinder, owned by the S and B Stable of Sue and Bill McClellan and trained by Sid Attard, is slated to ship out Wednesday for next Saturday's Canadian Derby at Northlands Park.

The Canadian Derby, a 1 3/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, offers Grade 3 status and its purse received a significant boost to $250,000 this year.

Jim McAleney, who won three races here Wednesday night to move into a tie for second place in the standings, has the call on Organ Grinder, a Kentucky-bred who won the 1 1/8 mile Victoria Park here June 13.

Surprised Humor, a 3-year-old filly whom Attard trains for Norseman Racing Stable, has been nominated to the City of Edmonton Distaff, the supporting feature on Canadian Derby Day.

The City of Edmonton Distaff, for fillies and mares, 3 and up, goes at 1 1/16 miles and offers a $75,000 purse.

McAleney also would ride Surprised Humor, who would be making her stakes debut if she goes west.

Hong Kong Dancer back in training

Hong Kong Dancer, a 3-year-old filly owned by Peter Ho and trained by Reade Baker, went three furlongs in 37.40 seconds under regular rider Rui Pimentel on the main track Wednesday in preparation for a fall comeback.

"She's been recovering from a pulled muscle behind," said Baker, who sent out Hong Kong Dancer to win her first two career starts in very impressive fashion here this spring but then watched her finish a distant fourth as the second choice in the June 13 Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

Baker added that Hong Kong Dancer's long-term target is the $150,000 Jammed Lovely, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies here Nov. 14.