08/24/2004 11:00PM

Turf, rest revive Very Professional


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It wouldn't seem probable that a horse would be making his stakes debut at age 6 in his 49th career start.

But that's exactly the scenario facing Very Professional, who is slated to run in the Grade 3, $150,000 Play the King Handicap over seven furlongs on grass here at Woodbine on Saturday.

While Very Professional has had his ups and downs through the years, he appears to have taken a new lease on life since rediscovering the turf here this summer.

Warren Wilcox trains Very Professional for owner Carlo d'Amato.

Wilcox, who claimed Very Professional for $60,000 here in the summer of 2002, believes there's actually more than turf behind Very Professional's resurgence.

"I think it's because he got a break this winter," said Wilcox.

"He had a couple of months off - he was turned out. I shipped him to Palm Meadows to get him ready to run here."

Very Professional showed the benefits of his Florida sojourn when he returned to action here April 17, scoring impressively when lowered to the $25,000 claiming level.

Three starts later, Very Professional made his first appearance on turf since the spring of 2001, and was an upset winner while sporting a $40,000 tag over six furlongs.

Then, after returning to the main track and scoring for $50,000 at seven furlongs, Very Professional was beaten just a neck as the third-place finisher in the Play the King prep, in which he earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

"He got in a bit of trouble," said Wilcox, who also noted that Chris's Bad Boy set a course record of 1:14.27 in that 6 1/2-furlong turf allowance.

"Seven furlongs should be a better distance for him. He'll do his thing; if he gets beat, he won't get beat by much.

"He's getting better all the time."

Wilcox, 50, has been around plenty of horses since starting as a hotwalker here in 1969 and moving on to take out his trainer's license 10 years later.

He has particularly kind words for Very Professional.

"Whoever named him, named him right," said Wilcox. "In his stall manner, every which way, he's very professional."

Attfield pair preps for stakes

Lone Arrow and Just in Case Jimmy, a pair of 3-year-olds trained by Roger Attfield, worked five furlongs in company here Wednesday morning, going in 59.20 seconds on a fast training track in preparation for upcoming stakes engagements.

Assistant trainer Rachel Halden was aboard Lone Arrow, while regular rider Richard Dos Ramos guided Just in Case Jimmy. The works were the fastest of 17 at the distance.

Both Lone Arrow and Just in Case Jimmy are nominated to Sunday's $125,000 Vice Regent, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds

Both also are eligible to the $125,000 yearling sales stakes for 3-year-olds and upward here the following Sunday. Lone Arrow is on the list for the Halton, a 1 1/8-mile turf race, while in Just in Case Jimmy is nominated to the Elgin, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race for colts and geldings.

Lone Arrow also is nominated to the Halton, the 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward that is one of six yearling sales stakes here Sept. 5.

As of Wednesday morning, Attfield had not finalized his plans but was leaning toward running Lone Arrow in the Vice Regent.

"He worked very strongly this morning on the dirt," said Attfield. "He definitely prefers turf."

Lone Arrow, owned by Attfield in partnership with Bill Werner, is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, over 1 1/2 miles of turf here Aug. 8.

Just in Case Jimmy won a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles in his last start here Aug. 8.

Also owned by Attfield and Werner, Just in Case Jimmy had competed in the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, finishing fourth in both the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here June 27 and the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales at Fort Erie on July 18.

* Tickets are on sale for the "Jocks Barbeque," which will be held here Monday, Sept. 20, beginning at 5 p.m. in the VIP tent. The $30 tickets can be purchased at the Woodbine gift shop, at the west entrance; through any local jockey; or through the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.