05/22/2003 11:00PM

Veteran Air Cool honored as '02 claimer of the year


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Air Cool, like a number of Canada's older citizens, headed south to Florida this past winter.

But unlike his human counterparts, the 9-year-old Air Cool took a busman's holiday. The purpose of his trip was to try and pick up some United States currency at Gulfstream for owner John Atto and trainer Sandy McPherson.

Air Cool did not come home - he was claimed for $25,000 by Florida interests from a third-place finish Jan. 23 - but he will be honored in absentia here next Sunday as the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club's 2002 claimer of the year.

Air Cool, claimed for $25,000 here last June 1, went on to win five races for Atto and McPherson, capped by a win at the $50,000 level in his final start of last year's meet.

"He was fun to have," McPherson said. "He's a classy old horse. He loved to run, loved to train - he was a joy to be around."

Atto, whose insurance company sponsors the Atto Mile, was delighted to learn of Air Cool's honor.

"Sandy did it all; I was just there for the ride," Atto said. "He dropped the horse a couple of times, to where he should have been claimed, but we didn't lose him. He was always in the right place at the right time."

Atto ranks the claim of Air Cool behind only that of Parose, whom he and McPherson claimed for $62,500 here in December 2001.

Parose, who also turned 9 this year, was a two-time stakes winner and Sovereign Award finalist last year.

Husbands among TTRC honorees

The TTRC, formed more than 40 years ago, has a membership of 150 and meets monthly here during the live Thoroughbred racing season, with a head table of racing industry guests on hand.

Club activities also include an annual field trip to an out-of-town racetrack, backstretch and farm tours, and handicapping contests.

The annual awards day, which recognizes the top performers at last year's Woodbine meet, also will honor jockey Patrick Husbands, former apprentice jockey Chantal Sutherland, trainer Mark Casse, and owner Stronach Stable.

The jockey and trainer awards are based on races won, the owner on money won.

The club will be based in the second-floor International Room for the afternoon, and presentations will take place in the walking ring between races.

Steady Growth lures some good ones

Wednesday's $125,000 Steady Growth, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up, is shaping up as a very interesting race.

The field for the Steady Growth, which is the first Wednesday night stakes race of the season, should include T J's Lucky Moon, winner of last year's Queen's Plate and second in his recent return to action; Forever Grand, third in that Plate and winner of the six-furlong New Providence here last Sunday; Mister Coop, who is 2 for 2 this year and bypassed the New Providence in favor of this two-turn race; Barbeau Ruckus, winner of the Sir Barton at 1 1/16 miles here last fall and a solid runner-up in his 2003 debut; and Geraint, a hard-knocking type.

Racing television show debuts June 14

A 12-week television series entitled "Horseplay" is being sponsored by the Ontario division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Hosted by television sportscaster Joe Tilley and with former Woodbine television host Stephen Millar featured as the HBPA analyst, the first segment of "Horseplay" will air at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 14, on Outdoor Life Network.

Each half-hour episode also will be shown at 9 a.m. Sundays by the Canadian Television Network's Ontario affiliates.

Leslie Smith, marketing/finance administrator for the local HBPA, said the wide-ranging content of the shows would include profiles of owners and trainers, major races, backstretch events, regulatory issues, and handicapping.

While most of the shows will focus on Woodbine, Smith said Fort Erie also would be represented with episodes centering on the Prince of Wales and Bison City stakes.

Additional information is available on the HPBA's new web site, at hbpa.on.ca.

Kissed by a Prince works

Kissed by a Prince, who is slated to make her next start in the June 8 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, worked seven furlongs in 1:29.80 on the training track here Friday.

Dino Luciani was aboard for the workout and has the mount for the Oaks.

Kissed by a Prince, owned by Heather Landymore and trained by Mike DePaulo, will be making her stakes debut and first start around two turns in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, a $500,000 race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Kissed by a Prince was supplemented to the Oaks at a cost of $5,000.

Athletes to help with Oaks draw

Top Canadian female athletes Hayley Wickenheiser and Jennifer Robinson will be the guest drawmasters at the June 5 draw for the Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

Wickenheiser, a member of Canada's 2002 gold medal women's hockey team at the Salt Lake winter Olympics, made big news in the sports world earlier this year when she became the only female player in a men's professional hockey league in Finland.

Robinson is a six-time Canadian figure skating champion.

* The first turf training session took place here Friday, on a course rated yielding by head clocker Steven Bragg. Stakes winners Diadella, Full of Wonder, and Strait From Texas were among the 43 horses on the workout tab.