08/08/2005 12:00AM

Turf-loving gelding goes long


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Apprentices will be in the spotlight in Wednesday's Woodbine headliner, a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance on the grass headed by Young Apprentice.

Young Apprentice, to be ridden by an apprentice, leading rider Emma Wilson, has missed the board only once in seven turf starts, dating back to last winter at the Fair Grounds, where he graduated going long in late March.

Trained by Malcolm Pierce for Live Oak Plantation, Young Apprentice returned from a layoff here June 8, finishing a close third in a second-level allowance at seven furlongs for 3-year-olds. Most recently, in another seven-furlong turf event, he was beaten a neck when he finished second against entry-level allowance foes.

Pierce entered Young Apprentice in a six-furlong allowance last Wednesday, but scratched him when the race was taken off the grass.

"I didn't really want to run him on the dirt," said Pierce, "so I scratched him. I think he'll like this distance better than three-quarters, because he won't be in such a rush - it's hard for him to get up going three-quarters.

"I really wanted to run him in this race, because of the distance."

Pierce described Young Apprentice as a hard-trying gelding who excels with some time between his outings. "He's not a very big horse, but he's got a big heart," Pierce said. "He's had a little time between races, and he runs pretty good fresh."

Apprentice Justin Stein, among the leading riders at Hastings, replaces Wilson aboard J N J's Executive in the feature.

J N J's Executive has won two seven-furlong dashes in a row on the grass, a maiden special and a $40,000 conditioned claimer. He could hook up on the front end with Northern Candy, who is making his second local start following a layoff.

Other contenders include El Habanero, Excellent Cut, and Fastlight.

El Habanero was prominent in both of his appearances this year, running second and fourth under second-leading rider Corey Fraser, another apprentice. He prevailed in a one-mile Ontario sire allowance over this course last summer.

Excellent Cut, a full brother to the 2003 Canadian grass champion, Perfect Soul, was a nonthreatening fifth as the favorite in his last attempt. He has a win and eight seconds in 17 starts.

Fastlight was a fast-closing second in each of his spring races, both over a middle distance. He found seven furlongs too short for him most recently, when he finished just behind Excellent Cut in sixth.