06/09/2003 11:00PM

Vella keeps winning like he never left


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It hasn't taken long for trainer Danny Vella to get back in a winning groove here.

Vella, who spent the last five years as the farm trainer at Stronach Stable's Adena Springs South in Florida, returned to ontrack duty at Woodbine this spring.

After sending out a trio of winners last weekend, Vella's record stood at 12 for 34, for a lofty winning percentage of 35, with 50 percent of his runners having finished first or second.

The highlight of Vella's weekend was the performance of Winning Chance, who recorded her third win in as many starts this year in the $189,375 Ontario Matron.

"She's an exceptional filly," said Vella, who trains the 4-year-old homebred for Stronach Stable. "It's hard to tell just how good she is. She seems to be improving right now."

Vella's next trick will be to find another suitable spot here for Winning Chance.

"I'm not looking to go out of town," said Vella. "She's just getting into a great rhythm, running well, and I don't want to disrupt that. But, I will go out of town if I have to."

One option here could be the Kamar, a stakes race for Canadian-bred fillies and mares that will be run in mid-July over seven furlongs, a distance at which Winning Chance has won twice.

The Kamar, however, is an overnight stakes and would require a field of at least five to be carded.

Saint Bernadette reappears

Vella unveiled another interesting 4-year-old filly here last Sunday as Saint Bernadette, a Florida-bred who races for Stronach Stable, captured a first-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Saint Bernadette had not seen action since last June, when she was sidelined by an unspecified injury. Although Saint Bernadette was all out to win as the even-money choice Sunday, Vella was satisfied with the effort.

"She was ready," he said, "but she wasn't honed."

Saint Bernadette started six times in Southern California last year, winning just once. She finished second four times and ran third in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.

"She's a very classy filly," Vella said. "I'd like to stretch her out slowly; I'm looking at another allowance race. Eventually, we'll have to look at something bigger for her."

Sir Blitz wins at bomber's price

Sir Blitz, winner of last Sunday's finale, represented a departure from the regular profile of a Vella winner.

For one thing, Sir Blitz is owned in part by the trainer's wife, Terrie Vella.

For another, the win payoff on Sir Blitz was a very un-Vella-like $61.

"I expected him to run well," said Vella, "but I think he ran a little better than I thought he would."

Sir Blitz was the first winner groomed by 17-year-old Christopher Vella, who had worked with his father on the farm in Florida but is spending his first summer at the racetrack.

Two races, three Vella runners

Vella is represented in both divisions of a six-furlong maiden special weight race here Thursday, with Gold Meteor and King's Deputy forming an entry in the ninth race and Zigeuner coupled with the Reade Baker-trained Outer Zone in the fourth. All four horses race for Stronach Stable.

Gold Meteor, a 3-year-old gelding bred at Adena Springs North, worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 on the training track here June 1.

"I think he's a decent Canadian-bred colt," Vella said. "I like him quite a bit."

Zigeuner, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred, will be making his first start in more than 13 months.

"I was looking to get on the turf with him, and it just didn't materialize," said Vella. "He's training very well."

Sam-Son sends out firsters

Trainer Mark Frostad and Sam-Son Farm also have promising first-time starters in both divisions of the maiden special.

Parasail, who goes in the fourth race, is a full brother to Soaring Free, who won the allowance prep for the Nearctic Handicap last week.

Sky Diamond, in the ninth race, is a son of Sky Classic and is a half-brother to Coronation Futurity winner Dixieland Diamond.

My Sweet Tooch back on dirt

My Sweet Tooch, coming off a win in her first attempt on turf, will go back to the main track in Thursday's Woodbine headliner, a $69,900 first-level allowance for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

My Sweet Tooch failed to hit the board in her first two starts, including her May 3 season opener in a maiden special sprint. Trainer Janet Bedford moved her onto the grass to contest a one-mile maiden special May 30, which she won comfortably at 30-1.

My Sweet Tooch will stretch out to 1 1/16 miles Thursday, and she possesses sufficient stamina in her pedigree for the task. Simon Husbands has the mount.

Queen's Plate candidates work

A couple of Queen's Plate candidates worked on the fast main track Tuesday, with Mobil breezing five furlongs in 1:01.40 and Shoal Water clocked in 1:26.60 for seven furlongs.

Regular rider Todd Kabel was aboard Mobil, winner of the Plate Trial in his last start for trainer Mike Keogh and owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz.

Kabel also rode Shoal Water to victory in that gelding's only start this year, but Robert Landry was in the irons for Tuesday's drill and would pick up the mount for the Plate.

Shoal Water is owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Frostad.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink