04/19/2006 11:00PM

Vibank vs. L'Argent in Woodstock

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Speed will be at a premium Saturday at Woodbine when Vibank clashes with L'Argent and six other 3-year-olds in the $125,000 Woodstock Stakes.

Vibank, a Queen's Plate eligible trained by Josie Carroll, won three consecutive races here last summer, including the Victoria and Clarendon stakes. He missed the second half of 2005 after undergoing ankle surgery.

"He had a little flake in one ankle that we had taken out," Carroll said.

Vibank was part of Carroll's contingent that spent the winter at Santa Anita, where he finished seventh in the March 4 Baldwin Stakes, a sprint that was taken off the grass.

Carroll offered no excuses for Vibank's Santa Anita clunker.

"I entered him hoping it would come off the turf, and it looked like a good place to start him off in," Carroll said. "He just flattened out inexplicably."

Vibank ran two consecutive bullet works before his most recent move last Saturday, when he breezed five furlongs in a leisurely 1:03.20. "We got him slowed down the last time," Carroll said. "We needed to get him off the bridle just a little bit."

David Clark, who has won the six-furlong Woodstock four times, will ride Vibank.

L'Argent, a stocky son of Silver Deputy, cost $230,000 as a 2-year-old. He won his maiden at first asking at Woodbine in October, earning a 74 Beyer Speed Figure.

L'Argent wintered at Payson Park in Florida with trainer Gail Casselman-Cox, who sent him out to finish a distant fourth in the March 20 OBS Sprint Stakes at the Ocala Training Center.

Casselman-Cox believes the track conditions did not favor L'Argent in the OBS Sprint.

"It was a very funny track," she said. "It was deep and sandy, and was certainly much better on the outside than on the inside. In all the races, only one horse won on the inside. He did everything right, and was pressed the whole way along the inside."

Other front-runners in Saturday's field include Ballado Dancer and Trail Fox.

Ballado Dancer rated just off the pace on the outside before winning his season opener in a five-furlong allowance. After breaking from post 1 Saturday, jockey Patrick Husbands might be inclined to go for the lead with him in order to establish a favorable position.

Trail Fox has been absent since narrowly losing the Bull Page Stakes last Oct. 15.