10/21/2010 12:39PM

Turf a possibility for Plate winner

Michael Burns
Jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva celebrates Big Red Mike's front-running victory in the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Queen’s Plate winner Big Red Mike, who finished sixth when returning from a two-month absence in the Ontario Derby, has been entered in Saturday’s Autumn Stakes prep for 3-year-olds and upward but also was nominated for Sunday’s $100,000 Mobil, an overnight stakes for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds.

The Autumn Stakes prep is a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race, and the Mobil is at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Big Red Mike has never run on turf.

“We were kind of in a difficult position,” said trainer Nick Gonzalez. “I wanted to try him on turf, but I’m a little apprehensive about the weather. I don’t want to run him on soft turf.”

Gonzalez also was cognizant of the fact that Stormy Lord, a front-running type, could make the like-minded Big Red Mike’s task difficult in the Mobil. Also expected for the Mobil are Hotep, Cognashene, Archon, and Riley Ripasso.

Sugar Again a three-surface filly

The 3-year-old filly Sugar Again, making her stakes debut, was a sharp winner of the $105,400 Ruling Angel on the Polytrack here Wednesday evening.

Sugar Again also has raced well on turf and dirt, with her only loss in four starts this year coming when she was beaten a neck as the runner-up to the 5-year-old Missit, who went on the finish third in Belmont’s Grade 3 Athenia last weekend.

Trainer Mac Benson will be talking with owner George Strawbridge Jr. before deciding on his next move with Sugar Again, but an appearance in the $150,000 Bessarabian, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares on Nov. 21, would appear to be her only local option.

Ridden by Luis Contreras, Sugar Again was within striking distance throughout the Ruling Angel and angled out for a late rally that carried her to a half-length victory in the 6 1/2-furlong overnight stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

“I don’t think that was her best distance, either,” said Benson. “Right now, I think that would be seven furlongs.”

Benson taking turf shots

Benson also plans to be represented here next weekend in both the River Memories and Labeeb, which are scheduled to be the final turf stakes of the meeting.

Saturday’s River Memories, for fillies and mares, and Sunday’s Labeeb, for 3-year-olds and upward, both are overnight stakes worth $100,000 and would require at least five entrants to be carded.

Sugar Bay, a 5-year-old homebred who races for Strawbridge, is coming off a 2 1/4-length win under Contreras in the Belle Geste, a seven-furlong overnight turf stakes for Ontario-foaled fillies and mares here Oct. 2.

“I breezed her a half last weekend, just to kind of try to keep her on course,” said Benson, who sent out Sugar Bay to work four furlongs in 48.60 on Monday.

Ice Bear, a homebred 6-year-old gelding owned by Strawbridge, is winless in seven starts this season. He was beaten a length last time out as the runner-up to the odds-on favorite Smokey Fire in the seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras, an overnight stakes for Ontario foals here Oct. 13.

“He’s an honest old horse; he runs as hard as he can,” said Benson. “We weren’t going to beat the winner if we went around again.”

Contreras loses appeal

Jockey Luis Contreras is scheduled to serve a three-day suspension after losing an appeal of a ruling concerning his ride aboard Namath here Sept. 5.

Namath had finished first by seven lengths but was disqualified and placed sixth after the stewards ruled he had come in and interefered with Chia Houa Houa in the vicinity of the quarter pole. Barbara Minshall, who trains Namath and also owns the 2-year-old gelding in partnership with Avelino Gomez Jr., also appealed the decision but was overruled.

◗ Chantal Sutherland will be at Keeneland on Saturday to ride Kitty in a Tizzy for trainer Jim Bond in the Grade 2, $250,000 Raven Run, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies. Sutherland has been aboard Kitty in a Tizzy for her last three starts, all here at Woodbine, including second-place finishes in the Grade 3 Selene and the Duchess.

Platinum Express, who is based here with trainer Brian Lynch, also is in the Raven Run lineup.

◗ Daily Racing Form handicapping editor Dan Illman will be here Saturday to host a one-hour seminar beginning at 11 a.m. on the third floor of the grandstand. Illman’s focus will be on trip handicapping.