04/20/2005 11:00PM

Two leading Plate prospects take a pass


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Saturday's Woodstock is billed as the first stakes prep for the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate, the $1 million showpiece for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here June 26.

But Moonshine Justice and Dave the Knave, the top two Canadian-breds among the Woodstock nominees, are taking a pass on the open six-furlong race.

Both Dave Cotey, who trains Moonshine Justice, and Bob Tiller, the trainer of Dave the Knave, are aiming their Plate hopefuls for the May 7 Queenston, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds.

Moonshine Justice won 3 of his 4 starts, including the seven-furlong Simcoe, six-furlong Vandal, and 5 1/2-furlong Clarendon before a hairline fracture in a shin put an end to his campaign in September.

Owned by Cotey and partners Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith, Moonshine Justice started training on Jan. 5 at nearby Huntington Stud Farm and was one of the first arrivals when the backstretch opened Feb. 28.

"He's ready to run," said Cotey. "He's doing really, really well - he's working way, way better than last year."

Cotey, however, prefers to await the Queenston and then run Moonshine Justice two weeks later in the 1 1/16-mile Marine.

The Marine could serve as Moonshine Justice's prelude to the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial on June 5 and Cotey can't rationalize dancing every dance.

"I don't mind running him back in two weeks twice, but not three times," said Cotey.

Dave the Knave won his first two starts, including the 6 1/2-furlong Sunny's Halo, before finishing second in the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie here Dec. 12.

Owned by Tiller in partnership with Frank DiGiulio Jr., Dave the Knave wintered at nearby Buttigieg Farm and came in to Woodbine when the backstretch opened.

"I need him to be as good as he was last year," said Tiller. "I just don't think he's quite there yet.

"He's a towering horse; it takes a lot of work to get him ready. You have to have a very fit horse to run on this track."

Nashinda returns healthy winner

Nashinda, whose first two campaigns were cut short by injuries, made her first start since last July a winning one when she led throughout Sunday's $184,100 Whimsical.

Nashinda had to have chips removed from an ankle after going undefeated in her first two races at 2.

Then, last year, Nashinda was heading into the Labatt Woodbine Oaks as one of the favorites but missed that important race after suffering a bruised foot at the 11th hour.

Two months later, Nashinda returned in the Ontario Damsel, her turf debut, and finished fifth. Foot bruises put an end to her season.

Mac Benson, who trains Nashinda for her owner and breeder George Strawbridge Jr., admitted that he when he put away Nashinda last summer he was not sure whether she would ever make it back to the races.

"That was one reason I wanted to get her back out early," said Benson, who shipped Nashinda to his winter base at Payson Park at the beginning of December and had her in training at the start of January.

"If she wasn't going to make it, we would have had time to breed her. The Whimsical worked right into our plans."

Nashinda should be looking for her second straight stakes score in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hendrie Handicap here May 15. The 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie is the next stakes opportunity for older fillies and mares.

'Wild Cat' possible for Vigil

Ministers Wild Cat, winner of the opening-day Jacques Cartier, also could swing back in his division's next stakes, the Grade 3 Vigil at seven furlongs here April 30.

"We're just going to sit and wait, and see how the horse is," said Scott Fairlie, who took over the training of Ministers Wild Cat last fall.

A 5-year-old owned by Hal Snowden in partnership with breeders Marjorie and Irving Cowan, Ministers Wild Cat won the 2003 Golden State Mile when trained by Neil Drysdale.

"You just have to look at his form to see he's a very nice horse," said Fairlie.

Ministers Wild Cat had a brief break in Kentucky following his first start here, a second-place finish in November, and then shipped to Calder, where he worked several times under the care of trainer Steven DiMauro before rejoining Fairlie at the end of March.

Judiths Wild Rush changes barns

Judiths Wild Rush, a 4-year-old who finished a nose behind Ministers Wild Cat in the Cartier, spent his first two seasons with Fairlie and was a Canadian champion at 2.

Judiths Wild Rush, owned by Harvey Tenenbaum, made five starts while with trainer Julian Canet at Gulfstream this winter and was transferred to Reade Baker before returning north.

"The horse didn't have a very good year last year, and the owner wanted to make a change," said Fairlie.

King rides a winner

Robert King Jr., who had not ridden in a race since 1996, didn't take long to get back on the scoreboard.

King, 40, won with his second mount, taking Sunday's 10th and final race with Gladiators Consort after finishing third with Skinner in Saturday's nightcap. Both horses are trained by Darren Glennon.