08/14/2002 12:00AM

Walls takes break from riding

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mickey Walls, plagued by health problems related to his constant need to reduce his weight, has taken a leave of absence of indeterminate length from race riding.

The 28-year-old Walls had a particularly difficult struggle with his weight this year after an ankle injury prior to the start of the season compromised his conditioning regimen.

Walls was Canada's champion apprentice jockey in 1990 and 1991 and also was voted Canada's outstanding jockey in 1991, making him the only rider to pull off that Sovereign Award double. He also won the Eclipse Award as North America's top apprentice in 1991.

He ranked sixth in the Woodbine standings last year and has won 13 races at this meeting, including the Alywow Stakes with Lush Soldier. His biggest win of the year came at Fort Erie, with Silver Nithi in the $250,000 Labatt Bison City.

Classic Mike done for year

Classic Mike, who finished eighth in the Queen's Plate here at Woodbine and 12th in Fort Erie's Prince of Wales after having finished second in the Plate Trial, has undergone surgery to remove a chip from his knee and will be out for the year.

"He has a good chance to make it back," said Reade Baker, who trains Classic Mike for the Terra Farm of Dom Romeo. "Being operated on right now, he could make it back next May."

Baker speculates that Classic Mike may have suffered the injury in his start before the Plate Trial, which was a win in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race here May 11.

"He never showed any swelling or lameness," said Baker. "But something must have been brewing, because he didn't want to go in the gate Plate Trial Day, and that's the first sign."

Baker also reports that Gonetofarr, winner of the Fury Stakes for owner George Farr here this spring, is being given a break and will return to the track in about two weeks.

Following the Fury, Gonetofarr finished fourth in the Labatt Woodbine Oaks and seventh when trying turf for the first time in the Ontario Damsel.

On the plus side, Baker unveiled a very promising 2-year-old prospect here last Sunday.

Just Watch Me, a colt owned by Baker in partnership with his wife, Janis Maine, won his debut over seven furlongs on turf. Being Canadian-bred, Just Watch Me is eligible for the $250,000 Cup and Saucer, a 1 1/16-mile turf race here Oct. 12.

In the meantime, Baker plans to run Just Watch Me in the $250,000 Summer Stakes, a Grade 2 turf race over one mile here Sept. 8, Atto Mile Day.

Questing Knight injures leg

Questing Knight is another Canadian-bred 3-year-old who competed in two Canadian Triple Crown races but now is sidelined.

Questing Knight will be out of action for at least six months after suffering an unspecified injury to his left foreleg during his sixth-place finish here in last Sunday's Breeders' Stakes.

Owned by Overheath Stable and trained by Mike DePaulo, Questing Knight won back-to-back races here in June and then finished fourth following a nightmarish trip in the Prince of Wales.

Extra week could help

Saturday's feature, the Grade 3 Play the King Handicap, is billed as the local prep for the $1 million Atto Mile here Sept. 8.

Although recent runnings of the seven-furlong Play the King have had little bearing on the Grade 1 Atto Mile, that trend at least has a chance to change because the two-week gap between the two turf races has been increased to three weeks this year.

Those horses among the Play the King's field of 12 who also are nominated to the Atto Mile include Waltzin' Storm, Steady Ruckus, Dawn Watcher, Dumaani Star, and Relaunch Star.

Steady Ruckus and Dawn Watcher are cross-entered in Saturday's $106,000 With Approval. Six horses, including an entry, have been named for that 1 1/8-mile overnight turf stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and upward.

Tails of the Crypt gets ready

Tails of the Crypt, a 3-year-old who won the Victoria Park here June 8, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 on the fast training track Wednesday.

Regular rider Jake Barton was aboard for the drill, which was Tails of the Crypt's first since he returned from a respite on the farm, which followed his fourth-place finish in the July 13 Toronto Cup.

John Ross, who trains Tails of the Crypt for the Jam Jar Racing Stable of Bud and Jackie Reynolds, said he would be examining his options both at home and on the road.

"My number-one preference is to run him here, if I can," said Ross, who has nominated Tails of the Crypt to the Grade 3, $150,000 Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds here Sept. 14.

Perfect Soul bound for Niagara

Perfect Soul, a 4-year-old who is undefeated in three career starts, all on turf here this year, also worked five furlongs on the training track Wednesday.

With exercise rider Paul O'Sullivan in the irons, Perfect Soul went in 59.80 seconds while accompanied by stablemate Montenapoleone, a 3-year-old maiden who posted an identical clocking.

Trained by Roger Attfield and owned by his breeder, Charles Fipke, Perfect Soul is slated to make his stakes debut here in the Aug. 31 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap. The Niagara, a Grade 1 worth $300,000, is a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward.

* The Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association office here is making payments available to horsepeople affected by the Aug. 4 fire, which resulted in the deaths of 32 horses. The first phase of the payments will cover trainers' loss of income and tack losses. In addition, all exercise riders, grooms and hot walkers will be compensated for lost equipment and personal belongings.