10/24/2005 11:00PM

Velvet Snow, Warm Rain strong entry in turf race

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Velvet Snow, winner of the 2004 Ontario Damsel Stakes, figures to be strongly backed as half of a Bob Tiller-trained entry in Thursday's turf race.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Bob Tiller-trained entry of Velvet Snow and Warm Rain should be strongly backed in Thursday's Woodbine headliner, an optional $80,000 claimer going seven furlongs on the grass.

Velvet Snow, who won the 2004 Ontario Damsel Stakes as a longshot, is winless in six starts this year. She was a close second in each of her first two starts at the meeting, including the restricted Zadracarta Stakes, which she lost by a nose off a long layoff.

Velvet Snow finished fourth in the Grade 3 Royal North Handicap for the second straight year in August, and also ran fourth in the allowance prep for the Canadian Handicap. Two starts ago over soft turf in the Grade 2 Canadian she dueled on the lead and faded in the final furlong.

Last time in a one-mile allowance, Velvet Snow was in tight between rivals in the stretch and was bumped while rallying. She ended up fourth, behind stakes winners Heyahohowdy and Mona Rosa.

Warm Rain has been a disappointment since her front-running victory against Larry's Smile in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer Aug. 17. She had a rough trip when finishing far up the turf course in the Ontario Colleen Handicap, and set a quick pace before weakening in the stretch of the La Lorgnette Stakes on the main track.

Warm Rain cut back to seven furlongs most recently, and ran evenly for fourth against $80,000 opposition. The third-place finisher, Miss Concerto, came back to take a $62,500 contest, and unplaced Hatpin subsequently romped in an allowance.

Corey Fraser, who rode four winners last Friday in this his first month as a journeyman, was named on both Tiller runners.

Stonington should be prominent in the feature, regardless of the surface. An astute $40,000 claim in July by leading trainer Sid Attard, Stonington has won 2 of her 3 starts under Attard's care.

Stonington crushed $50,000 claimers on the main track in August before ending up fourth in a difficult optional claimer on the grass. She set moderate fractions on an uncontested lead in an $80,000 event on the turf Oct. 8, and won comfortably under Simon Husbands.

Maryfield is exiting the same key race as Warm Rain, finishing second after pressing the pace. The best of her two turf efforts was a gate-to-wire win going a mile in May.

Maryfield could hook up with Stonington on the front end here under Patrick Husbands, Simon's younger brother.