10/29/2009 11:00PM

On the turf or off, Sterwins prepared to run


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sterwins has won stakes on turf and Polytrack this season and is in a good position to add to his laurels in Sunday's $100,000 Labeeb.

The Labeeb, a one-mile overnight stakes, is scheduled to be the last turf stakes of the meeting, but with rain in the forecast, the race could be moved to the main track.

Either scenario could suit Sterwins, although a soft turf course would affect his status.

"The only thing we wouldn't want to run on is soft turf," said Malcolm Pierce, who trains Sterwins for Melnyk Racing Stable. "I would rather it came off."

A homebred 6-year-old, Sterwins is coming off a fifth-place finish in Keeneland's , which was run over one mile on soft turf and was his first off-the-board finish since his season debut in Keeneland's Ben Ali.

In between, Sterwins made five starts here, winning the Connaught Cup and With Approval, finishing second in the King Edward and Ontario Jockey Club, and finishing third in the Woodbine Mile.

"He'll have one more race this year," said Pierce. "If we scratch Saturday, he'll go in the Autumn, and then we'll put him away."

The Autumn, a Grade 2 race worth $150,000, will be run at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 14.

In the meantime, Sterwins is scheduled to face six rivals in the Labeeb and will have regular rider Patrick Husbands back in the irons.

Leading the opposition will be Jimmy Simms, who has not raced since finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Play the King at seven furlongs on yielding turf here Aug. 29.

"He's in great shape," said trainer Roger Attfield. "There just hasn't been any place to run him."

A Kentucky-bred 4-year-old colt, Jimmy Simms was transferred to Attfield this summer and cleared his third allowance condition over one mile on turf in his first start for his new barn Aug. 1.

Jimmy Simms has won all four of his starts at a mile on turf, including the Woodchopper at the Fair Grounds last year.

"He prefers it a little firm," said Attfield. "I'd prefer the race came off, rather than soft turf."

Jono Jones retains the mount.

Just Rushing and Awesome Action, who have combined to win the last three runnings of the Labeeb, also are in Sunday's lineup.

Just Rushing won the Labeeb last year and in 2006, when it was run at a mile and 70 yards on the Polytrack. Awesome Action won in 2007 over a mile of yielding turf, beating Just Rushing by a half-length.

Verdana Bold seeks strong finish

Verdana Bold is winless in four starts this season and will be looking to get back on target here in Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Fashion, a six-furlong stakes for fillies and mares.

A Kentucky-bred 5-year-old, Verdana Bold was found to have mucus in her lungs after returning from her third-place finish in the Sweet Briar Too on July 1, and she did not race again for more than two months.

She returned in the at seven furlongs Sept. 5 and was prominent early before fading to finish seventh in the field of eight.

"She really didn't handle the heat in the summertime too well," said Vella. "Since the weather's cooler, she's really been super."

Verdana Bold will be making her first start in five weeks, but Vella said that isn't by design.

"I tried to go in the prep, but it didn't fill," said Vella. "But she's training awesome right now. She's in the groove."

Emile Ramsammy, who rode Verdana Bold to victories in the six-furlong Star Shoot and 1 1/16-mile Selene here last spring, regained the mount for the Seaway and has the call again Sunday.

Distance should suit Doctor Jack

Vella also will run Doctor Jack in Wednesday evening's $125,000 Frost King, a seven-furlong stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds.

He said Doctor Jack should love the race's distance. Owned by Syd Cooper, Doctor Jack is coming off a second-place finish in the six-furlong Bull Page, in which he closed strongly before falling a half-length short.

Last Monday, Doctor Jack tuned up with a four-furlong drill in 47.80 seconds under his new rider, Jim McAleney.

Rainford apprenticeship nears end

Michelle Rainford will be riding with a bug for the last time here Sunday.

Rainford, 29, had hung up her tack in order to preserve her apprentice allowance after riding four winners here in the fall of 2005.

The following year, Rainford registered 65 wins in her first full campaign, ranking ninth in the standings, and was off to a good start again in 2007 before being sidelined by a concussion in late June.

That injury and its effects delayed Rainford's return for more than two years. Heading into Friday's card, she had won with eight of her 66 mounts since launching her comeback Aug. 6.

"I didn't really have any expectations," said Rainford. "I wish I'd done a little better, but I knew it was tough out there.

"In any case, this is my last season."

Rainford will be returning to school this winter and is looking at several options for an apprenticeship of a different sort.

She does not plan to sever all ties with the racetrack, however, and hopes to continue to gallop horses for trainer Scott Fairlie.

Attfield turf horses put in works

Attfield sent out turf specialists Spice Route and Musketier to breeze on the main track here Friday.

Spice Route, with jockey Richard Dos Ramos subbing for regular rider Jim McAleney, went five furlongs in 1:01.60 and Musketier was clocked in 49.80 for four furlongs under his usual partner, Jono Jones.

Both Spice Route and Musketier are under consideration for the Grade 2, $150,000 Red Smith, a 1 3/8-mile turf race at Aqueduct on Nov. 7.

Attfield also watched Hollinger, prepping for the $250,000 Coronation Futurity on Nov. 8, breeze five furlongs in 1:02.60. Hollinger worked in company with 3-year-old stablemate Tutti Buona Gente.

Winner of the Cup and Saucer over 1 1/16 miles on turf in his last start, Hollinger will be looking for his fourth win in as many starts in the Coronation Futurity, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds.

Tutti Buona Gente finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby and then cleared his second allowance condition when facing older rivals in his last start at 1 1/16 miles.