04/23/2002 11:00PM

Upholding family honor

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Spanish Decree's win here in last Sunday's Lady Angela was a family affair.

In becoming a stakes winner in the Lady Angela, Spanish Decree was carrying on a tradition for her family, as her dam, Spanish Play, and granddam, Good Decree, also won stakes here.

Spanish Decree also provided a huge boost for her owner-breeder-trainer Frank Huarte and his sons, Frank Jr. and Chris, who work with him here.

"She showed a lot of promise last year," said Huarte, who also bred and raced Spanish Play and Good Decree. "And she had a really, really good winter. It's nice to see when horses grow between 2 and 3."

Spanish Play, a daughter of War Deputy who was winless in five starts last year, opened up her current campaign with a 7 3/4-length maiden romp over five furlongs and then took the seven-furlong Lady Angela by 4 3/4 lengths.

But both wins came over Ontario-sired rivals, and while Spanish Play is nominated for the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies June 8, Huarte is not about to get carried away at the prospect.

"There are so many options for her, with the Ontario sire stakes coming up," he said. "The Oaks is a different ball game, but you always have to keep it in mind.

"I think she improved a lot from her last race and next time I run her, if she improves again, you never know."

Huarte also believes that while Spanish Decree did not show to good advantage going two turns last year, she could this year.

"I think the filly will go a distance," he said. "I don't think it will be a problem. She trains like she wants to go long."

Huarte is uncertain of Spanish Decree's next start but it definitely will not be the May 5 Fury, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, because she was not nominated.

"It would have been too close," Huarte said.

Huarte is looking forward to Spanish Decree's 2-year-old half-sister, Spanish Brandy, who is by Whisky Wisdom.

"She's promising; she looks very nice," said Huarte, who also has a yearling filly out of Spanish Play, by Alydeed.

River Boat, the other stakes winner in the Huarte barn, has yet to start this year but is pointing to the $150,000 Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile turf race here May 25.

A 9-year-old gelding out of Good Decree, River Boat had given the stable its most recent stakes victory prior to Sunday's when he upset the Niagara Breeders' Cup here in 2000.

Tails of the Crypt heads home

There will be no Kentucky Derby this year for trainer John Ross, who watched Tails of the Crypt finish sixth in Keeneland's Lexington last Saturday.

"It was a drying-out track, and he didn't handle it," said Ross. "He didn't make any effort at all."

Tails of the Crypt will come back to Woodbine to prepare for the Marine, an open stakes for 3-year-olds here May 18.

But while Ross was watching with disappointment at Keeneland, his Queen's Plate stock received a boost here when Wild Whiskey, a Whiskey Wisdom colt he trains for Gary Wellwood and Larry Titchner, romped to an 8 3/4-length victory in the six-furlong Woodstock Stakes.

Wild Whiskey won his only start last year and finished second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Sovereign Award-winning 2-year-old male Rare Friends, in his seasonal bow in the six-furlong Achievement here March 31.

"I expected a good run out of him [in the Woodstock]," said Ross, "and I think he improved immensely.

"How far he wants to go is going be the question. I haven't ruled out the Plate yet. He keeps improving and learning all the time."

The $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be run here June 23. Wild Whiskey is nominated to the May 4 Queenston, a seven-furlong race that is the next stakes stepping-stone to the Plate, but Ross is adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

"We'll see how he responds," Ross said. "He'd be coming back quicker than I'd really want him to, but if he's doing real well, he's bouncing and happy, he could run."

Ross does plan to be represented in the Queenston by Shaws Creek, who finished third in the Achievement.

"I want to keep stretching him out," said Ross. "In the Achievement my idea was to take the horse back and come from out of it and the horse responded good, coming from behind."

The ecstasy and the agony

Lucky Tec, who had been a 2001 Plate hopeful for Ross before being sidelined by an ankle injury, made a triumphant return to the races here Sunday, capturing a first-level allowance by a head in his first start since April 8, 2001.

"He came back with a great effort," said Ross. "He did train in Florida, but there's nothing like a race under your belt. He's got a big heart."

Just two races earlier, Ross had watched in dismay as Ouskabaw, who was making his first lifetime start, faltered in midstretch and then collapsed and died of a heart attack when galloping out.

"I spent two years developing him, gave him the time," said Ross. "I had some nice plans for him this year."

* Fancy As had his first local drill Wednesday, going five furlongs in 1:01.40 on a fast main track under jockey Jake Barton. A multiple stakes winner in western Canada last year for trainer Red Smith, Fancy As spent the winter in Southern California with trainer Bob Baffert before joining Brian Palaniuk's string here last week.

* "Woodbine Post Time on Sportsnet" will make its 2002 debut here Friday in a 90-minute broadast beginning at 3:30 p.m.