10/24/2005 11:00PM

Unification gets in Coronation

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Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Unification, winning the Grey on Oct. 10, will make his third start in Canada in the Coronation, making him eligible to win a Sovereign Award.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Unification, who is based at Saratoga with trainer Eoin Harty, is slated to return to Woodbine for next Sunday's Coronation Futurity.

That news may be a surprise to those who took the trouble to consult the list of Canadian-bred 2-year-olds eligible for the $250,000 Coronation Futurity, which was released by the track on Sept. 29.

Unification's name was not on list, but quietly, last Friday, a second list surfaced with Unification's name included.

According to Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president of Thoroughbred racing, Unification's name had been omitted from the previous list because of a procedural snafu here.

Meanwhile, Unification's presence in the Coronation Futurity could bear ramifications beyond the immediate.

A $750,000 yearling owned by Darley Stable, Unification shipped here from Saratoga to win his maiden over 6 1/2 furlongs in his second career start on Sept. 17. On Oct. 10, Unification returned to win the Grade 3 Grey, an open race over 1 1/16 miles, under his regular Woodbine rider, Robert Landry.

Thus the Coronation Futurity would mark Unification's third appearance in Canada prior to the Nov. 27 deadline, making him eligible for consideration in the Sovereign Award voting. Unification's only other stakes opportunity here this year would be the $125,000 Display, a 1 1/16-mile race on Nov. 26.

Harty said the Coronation Futurity had been Unification's target from the time of his first visit here and that the colt's connections were not aware that there was any problem until reading a breeding column about Unification's dam, Devil's Orchid, in Daily Racing Form last weekend.

"I was under the impression that the horse was always eligible for it," said Harty, who trains Unification for Darley Stable. "We didn't realize that here was any discrepancy until an article came out about the mare, and it said that Unification wasn't eligible" for the Coronation.

"We went back, and went through all the paperwork, and found out that he was nominated for it and there was an oversight somewhere along the line. We had to bring it to the attention of management up there, and they got it all cleared up."

The major source of the Coronation confusion arose because eligibility for the race requires a continuing series of payments, beginning when the foal is in utero. Unification had apparently not been kept eligible prior to the Aug. 1 nomination stage, when a $300 payment was due.

"We did deny their claim that they were eligible to begin with," said Evans, "because we had not identified a check that was specifically for the Coronation Futurity."

It turned out that Woodbine had received a check for that amount before the deadline but the $300 was mistakenly applied to Darley Stable's general account, which is to cover payments such as regular stakes nominations and jockey fees.

"Since that time, they sent in documentation that there was a stub with that check that said it was for Unification," said Evans. "What we received didn't have the stub attached.

"We can't disprove that it was for Unification, so we're accepting their evidence. We try to do as honest a job as we can so we're giving them the benefit that we misapplied this money."

Evans acknowledged this is not the first time there have been problems with Woodbine's early-closing stakes, which also include the Queen's Plate, Woodbine Oaks, Cup and Saucer, and Princess Elizabeth.

"There always seem to be complications, and misunderstandings," said Evans. "It's kind of an annual nightmare."

Evans, however, said he does not believe that eliminating the early-closing stakes would be the solution.

"We want to revisit the whole early-closing format, and try to simplify it," said Evans. "The procedure has to be revised, but there's an awful lot of purse money generated through these early nominations, so there has to be a compromise somewhere."

One improvement, noted Evans, could be in the area of supplementary nominations, which in the case of the Coronation Futurity was a $7,500 payment due on Sept. 15.

"I think the supplementaries should be the day of entries," said Evans.

Dates approved for 2006

Woodbine's Thoroughbred dates request for 2006 has been formally approved by the Ontario Racing Commission.

The 168-day meeting will begin Saturday, April 1, and racing will be held Saturdays and Sundays only for the first two weekends. Fridays will be added to the schedule on April 14, with Wednesdays and Thursdays added during the first week of May.

There will be racing on five holiday Mondays, with Thursdays dark during those weeks. Closing day is Sunday, Dec. 3.

This year's meeting began April 16 and will conclude on Dec. 11.

First post time next season will be 1:10 p.m. except on Wednesdays, when racing begins at 6:50 p.m. The regular post time for the first race currently is 12:55 p.m. except on Wednesdays, when it is 6:45 p.m.

"Starting a little bit later should be more advantageous as far as business goes," said Evans. "We're looking at not being right on top of major simulcast signals."

Despite the later starts, cards are to end at approximately their current times, depending on the number of races.

"The plan is to shave a couple of minutes off the time between each race," said Evans. "When the Standardbreds are here, we can't run more than 10 races. When the Standardbreds are at Mohawk, we can run 11 races Saturday and Sunday."

Woodbine will host 179 Standardbred dates next year. The first phase of the Woodbine meeting runs from Jan. 1 to June 17, with racing Thursdays through Mondays.

Following an 81-day meeting at Mohawk, from June 18 through Oct. 7 on Thursdays though Mondays, the Standardbreds return here Oct. 9 and will race five days a week through Dec. 30, with Wednesdays and Sundays dark.