10/22/2008 12:00AM

Windward Islands fresh, fit


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mark Frostad and the Sam-Son Farm contingent will be at Santa Anita on Saturday to cheer on Grand Adventure, their entrant in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

But Frostad and Sam-Son also will be keeping the home fires burning with Windward Islands here at Woodbine in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Sky Classic.

Windward Islands, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding, will be making just his second start of the season in the Sky Classic, a 1 3/8-mile turf race.

In last year's Sky Classic, which was run four weeks prior to the Canadian International, Windward Islands finished third behind Cloudy's Knight. But, after finishing just 3 3 /4 lengths back when ninth in the Canadian International here last Oct. 21, Windward Islands went to the sidelines.

"He had some problems," said Frostad. "We had to give him some time; we brought him back slowly."

Windward Islands breezed for the first time this season here on July 23, but when he was ready to run Frostad could not find a spot.

"We had to get some races here for him; we were trying to make the International," said Frostad. "I entered him twice here, but both times the races were taken off the turf."

Finally, Frostad sent Windward Islands to Keeneland for a classified allowance race over 1 3/16 miles of turf on Oct. 4 and he won by a comfortable 3 1/4 lengths.

"He ran such a good race I thought we'd give him a shot here, in the Sky Classic," said Frostad. "He's pretty fresh. It's a small field, but it looks like it's a very tough race."

Royal Challenger primed for peak effort

Few would argue with Frostad's assessment, as the five-horse field for the Sky Classic also includes Spice Route, Seaside Retreat, and Lauro, who all made their last start in the Oct. 4 Canadian International.

Spice Route finished second that day, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Marsh Side, with Seaside Retreat another 1 3/4 lengths in fourth and Lauro beaten a total of 5 1/2 lengths as the seventh-place finisher.

Rounding out the field will be Royal Challenger, a 5-year-old horse trained by Brian Lynch who also will be making just his second start of the season.

Royal Challenger finished seventh, beaten just 3 1/2 lengths, in last year's Sky Classic and wound up his 2007 campaign with another reasonably close seventh-place finish in the W.L. McKnight at Calder on Dec. 15.

"He came out of that race with a little problem, and we gave him some time," said Lynch, who started up Royal Challenger at Adena Springs North in June and breezed him here for the first time this year on July 16.

Making his first start in nine months here Sept. 14, Royal Challenger overcame traffic trouble to win a fourth-level optional $100,000 claimer over 1 1/8 miles of Polytrack. That race was intended to serve as Royal Challenger's stepping-stone to the Oct. 11 Durham Cup, a 1 1/8-mile race in which the 5-year-old horse was entered but did not participate.

"We had Ghost Hour for that race," said Lynch. "I wanted to split them up, so I decided to give Royal Challenger the benefit of the doubt and save him for the Sky Classic.

"I feel that I've never had him this good, that he's really, really on top of his game. I'm prepared to take a shot with him in here."

French Beret redirected to Labeeb

French Beret, another Sam-Son turf specialist, also was nominated to the Sky Classic, but Frostad plans to await Sunday's $100,000 Labeeb.

The Labeeb, a one-mile overnight turf stakes, will be the secondary feature on a card that also includes the $250,000 Cup and Saucer, a 1o1/16-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds.

French Beret, a 5-year-old gelding, finished seventh last time out, beaten four lengths, in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 4.

The Labeeb appearance will be the third in as many years for French Beret, who was beaten three-quarters of a length as the fourth-place finisher last year and 11 1/4 lengths when third in a 2006 running which was taken off the turf and contested over a mile and 70 yards of Polytrack.

Awesome Action, last year's Labeeb winner, and Just Rushing, second to Awesome Action after taking the Labeeb a year earlier, both are expected to be in the lineup on Sunday, the final day of turf racing at the meeting.

* Canadian racing fans will have much broader access to the Breeders' Cup this year as The Sports Network will provide live coverage on both Friday and Saturday. The TSN coverage, encompassing all of the Breeders' Cup races, will run from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday and from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday.

* Jennifer Morrison will host a one-hour handicapping seminar here Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. on the second floor of the grandstand. Daily Racing Form's Ron Gierkink will be Morrison's special guest at the session, which will focus on Saturday's Breeders' Cup card.