07/31/2003 11:00PM

Wando gets reacquainted with grass course


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Wando, who will be looking to capture the Canadian Triple Crown at Woodbine in Saturday's $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, had his final major tune-up for the race here Friday morning.

Wando was an easy winner of the first two legs of the series, taking the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate by nine lengths here June 22 and Fort Erie's Prince of Wales by four lengths on July 20.

Wando will be moving to turf, a surface on which he ran well in one try last year, and stretching out to 1 1/2 miles for the Breeders'.

In Friday's special E.P. Taylor turf course training session, Wando had regular rider Patrick Husbands aboard and went six furlongs in 1:14.60 while working in company with stablemate Wild Strike.

The "dogs" were well out on the firm course.

Wild Strike was timed in 1:15.60 under assistant trainer Serge LeBlanc as the two horses finished on even terms.

"They went a little slow early," said trainer Mike Keogh, noting that Wando went the opening quarter-mile in 25.40 seconds and three furlongs in 37.40. "I wanted to work him in behind that other horse, and get him to relax a little bit. He rated pretty kindly."

Added Husbands: "It was beautiful; he's ready for the big day. He's fit, he's done it all. It was just a blowout. Mike said 'Just go out and enjoy yourself.' The turf is in great shape."

Wando is a homebred, and a Canadian Triple Crown would be worth $550,000 in bonuses to owner Gustav Schickedanz, including a $50,000 breeders' award.

Strizzi, who heads into the Breeders' following a second-place finish here in the Toronto Cup at 1 1/8 miles on turf and figures to be one of the chief threats to Wando, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 on turf Friday.

With jockey Emile Ramsammy aboard, Strizzi broke off behind stablemate Sand Burner, a 3-year-old maiden who was timed in 1:02.20 under jockey Ray Sabourin.

"He finished up nice and relaxed," Ramsammy said. "He seems to be coming up to the race as good as can be. Hopefully, come Breeders' Day, he'll have some speed to run at."

Strizzi is owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Malcolm Pierce.

As of Friday morning, the only other confirmed candidates for the Breeders', with jockeys, were Colorful Judgement (Slade Callaghan), Parasail (Robert Landry), and Shoal Water (Todd Kabel), all from Sam-Son Farm, and Arco's Gold (Constant Montpellier).