04/05/2006 11:00PM

Wilson hardly rusty after taking winter off

Email

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - After you've won an Eclipse Award and a Sovereign Award as outstanding apprentice - not to mention topping the Woodbine standings in your first full season of riding - what do you do for an encore?

If you're Emma-Jayne Wilson, author of the above feats, then you give an emphatic hint at the answer by winning four races and more than $200,000 in purse money on the opening weekend of the 2006 Woodbine meeting.

"It was the start I was hoping for," said Wilson, who rode 175 winners here last year. "You want to pick up where you left off. Sometimes, a long winter break can slow your momentum."

Wilson, 24, did not race over the winter with the aim of preserving her apprentice allowance, which she will have until late July.

But Wilson was far from inactive, as she started galloping horses for Sam-Son Farm at Palm Meadows in early January and spent most of her afternoons in virtual race-riding aboard an Equiciser.

"I had a three-bedroom apartment - one bedroom for my roommate, one for myself, and one for the Equiciser," said Wilson.

Wilson's working room also included two TVs, one showing live racing and the other a video feed of her exercises.

"I was working on technique, and fitness," said Wilson. "I was watching a lot of races as well. It was tough sometimes, wanting to get back into action. But it was good for me mentally, too, because all winter I was able to digest what happened last year."

Wilson did allow herself a couple of days off to attend the Eclipse Award ceremony in Beverly Hills, Calif., where she was presented with the outstanding apprentice honor by Chris McCarron.

"It was overwhelming, a little bit," said Wilson, "being with the 'Who's Who' of horse racing."

In mid-March, Wilson returned to Woodbine, where she and her agent, Mike Luider, began laying the groundwork for the coming season.

"There are still a lot of things I want to achieve," said Wilson. "But my main concern now is just to be consistent. I always want to be the best I can be, ride as many as I can, have fun, and keep learning."

And, while any consideration of her 2006 season must include the prospect of losing her apprentice allowance, Wilson maintains a fearless attitude.

"They say, traditionally, a bug will lose some business," said Wilson. "But I think it's a matter of perspective.

"If you get hung up on those kind of things, then it's going to be an issue. But if I have to work three times as hard to be successful, then so be it. If that comes with the territory, it's something I'm not afraid of."

Danieltown sharp in prep for Cartier

Trainer Mark Casse also started off his Woodbine meeting with a bang, winning three races, including the prep for the $125,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes with Danieltown.

Danieltown, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding owned by Stonerside Stable, won last Saturday's five-furlong feature with a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 and is among 25 nominees for next Saturday's six-furlong Jacques Cartier for 4-year-olds and upward.

Casse's other successes came in first-level allowance races at five furlongs on Sunday, with Chubasco Cat and Ballado Dancer.

Chubasco Cat, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old colt by Storm Cat out of the 1999 Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly Chilukki, was recording his second win in as many starts after winning his maiden at Mountaineer Race Track on Feb. 27.

Ballado Dancer, a Florida-bred 3-year-old gelding, was making his first start of the season. He finished second in the seven-furlong Swynford here last year.

Casse said Chubasco Cat will be headed for a second-level allowance and Ballado Dancer is pointing for the $125,000 Woodstock, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds here April 22.

Seaside Retreat aims for Blue Grass

Meanwhile, Casse is looking toward some high-profile stakes action south of the border with a pair of Kentucky-bred 3-year-olds who campaigned here last year.

Seaside Retreat, who finished third in the Grade 3 Grey prior to winning the Display here last fall, is headed for Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes on April 15.

Owned by Will Farish Jr., Seaside Retreat will be looking to use the Blue Grass as a springboard to the May 6 Kentucky Derby.

In his last start, Seaside Retreat finished second in the Grade 2 Lane's End over 1 1/8 miles at Turfway Park on March 25. Patrick Husbands, aboard that day, has the call at Keeneland.

Casse also has a candidate for the May 5 Kentucky Oaks in Top Notch Lady, winner of the Grade 3 Bourbonette at Turfway on March 25.

Top Notch Lady was making her first start of the season there after winning Woodbine's seven-furlong Glorious Song on Nov. 20.

Belsoeur breaks in with a bang

Trainer Yvon Belsoeur, a newcomer to the local training ranks, clicked with his first Canadian starter as Cabriolass ($62.20) lit up the tote in the ninth race here last Sunday.

Belsoeur, 41, was born in France and had worked here as an exercise rider for now retired trainer Emile Allain in the early 1990's.

Belsoeur then returned to his homeland, where he was an assistant to prominent trainers such as Maurice Zilber and David Smaga before coming back to Canada seven years ago. He currently has two horses in training.