06/29/2005 11:00PM

As usual, Casse has My Dear contender

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mark Casse is perennially a successful trainer of 2-year-olds, but he hasn't had much representation on that front thus far this season.

"I didn't bring them up from Florida until later this year, because I had so many 3-year-olds," said Casse. "We've been a little slow to get going; we're just a little behind. But, I've got some really good 2-year-olds."

Casse has managed to send out three 2-year-old starters at the Woodbine meeting, greeting Howaboutrightnow and Top Authority in the winner's circle and watching Ballado Dancer finish fourth of five in the Victoria Stakes. A fourth 2-year-old from the barn was scheduled to race on Friday.

Saturday, Howaboutrightnow will look to come right back in the five-furlong My Dear, the meet's first stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

"We liked her when she ran her first time," said Casse, who trains Howaboutrightnow for his father, Norman Casse.

Casse noted she ran head to head with Queen's College, a first-time starter who was the 3-2 favorite.

Howaboutrightnow, despite being steadied slightly at the start of that 4 1/2-furlong race, quickly engaged Queen's College and won the race-long duel by a length. Queen's College came back to win her maiden here last Saturday.

Casse will be seeking his third win in the last five runnings of the My Dear, having sent out Jealous Forum to win the 2001 edition in her second career start and Quite a Ruckus to romp in her debut last year.

Arzu seems formidable threat

Arzu, winner of the first 2-year-old race of the meeting here May 8, also figures to make her presence felt in the My Dear.

Vibank, a colt Arzu defeated by a half-length, came back to win his two subsequent races, including the Victoria Stakes.

"The fillies race didn't go, so she went against the boys," said Arthur Silvera, who trains Arzu. "It felt good. I knew she was a runner."

Arzu, an Ontario-bred, wintered with Silvera at Florida's Classic Mile and checked into Woodbine toward the end of March.

"She showed me the signs down there," said Silvera. "When she came up here she really got good, I thought. She put everything together. She got better and better with every work."

Silvera noted that winning the first 2-year-old race of a season can be a mixed blessing, as the first opportunity to run against winners was the June 19 Victoria.

In Arzu's case, however, Silvera couldn't have been happier.

"She had been going since December," Silvera said. "It gave me the perfect opportunity to back off on her. I did throw a lot at her quickly."

Arzu's reward was a break of about a month at Gardiner Farm.

"It gave her a chance to just be a horse for a while," said Silvera.

Palladio local hope in Ohio Derby

Woodbine will offer simulcast wagering on Saturday's $350,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown. Post time for the Grade 2 race is approximately 4:45 p.m.

There will be local representation in the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby as Palladio, who is trained by Roger Attfield and will be ridden by Richard Dos Ramos, is in the field of eight.

Palladio, a Florida-bred, is coming off an impressive win here in the June 12 Victoria Park, also at 1 1/8 miles. Prior to that, Palladio had finished third, beaten a half-length here in the Grade 3 Marine at 1 1/16 miles, after being unruly in the paddock, during the post parade, and at the gate.

Unbridled Energy, who invaded from Kentucky to win the Marine, also is in the lineup.

Two New Yorkers for King Edward

Silver Tree and Golden Commander are scheduled to ship in from New York for Sunday's feature, the Grade 2, $300,000 King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/8 miles of turf.

Silver Tree, a Grade 2 stakes winner of six races and $778,720, is trained by Bill Mott and will be ridden by Jose Santos.

Golden Commander, who set a course record for 1 1/8 miles on turf in the Kingston Stakes at Belmont last time out, is trained by Phil Serpe. Robert Landry picks up the mount.

'Skipping' ambitiously spotted

Skippingall Theway, owned by Mark Casse in partnership with one of his employees, Mike Goubault, is slated to make her stakes debut in Monday's $250,000 Bison City at Fort Erie.

The 1 1/16-mile Bison City is the second leg of the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Skippingall Theway has run just three times, all this year.

"We liked her last year as a 2-year-old, but she got hurt," said Casse.

After winning her six-furlong debut when tagged for $50,000 here April 30, Skippingall Theway finished second in a pair of first-level allowances. The first came over six furlongs on turf and the latest at 1 1/8 miles in a race taken off the grass.

"I really think that she's a pretty nice filly, and she's getting better and better," said Casse. "But, this might be a little early for her."