09/21/2011 1:15PM

Woodbine: Alpha Bettor has shot to outrun his odds in Ontario Derby


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Alpha Bettor ran his best race to date here at Woodbine in the June 12 Victoria Park, an open 1 1/8-mile stakes race for 3-year-olds in which he was beaten a nose as the runner-up to Moonshine Mullin.

On Saturday, Alpha Bettor will return to that distance for the $150,000 Ontario Derby, an open stakes race for 3-year-olds.

The Ontario Derby attracted a solid field of nine, headed by Moonshine Mullin and Pender Harbour, who also has been entered in Saturday’s Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.

Alpha Bettor figures to go off at a fairly healthy price in the Ontario Derby but trainer Danny Vella is bullish on his chances.

“We believe he’s in top form,” said Vella, who was pleased after watching Alpha Bettor breeze five furlongs in 1:01.20 on Monday morning, one week after a solid six-furlong drill in 1:12.80. “He’s not really a work horse.”

Alpha Bettor returned five weeks after the Ontario Derby in the Toronto Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds in which he was beaten 4 3/4 lengths as the sixth-place finisher.

“He didn’t run a bad race,” said Vella. “His breeding says he should like turf, but I don’t think he’s quite the same horse on it. I believe he’s a few lengths less.”

Back on the main track four weeks later for his most recent race on Aug. 14, Alpha Bettor seemed to be in a good spot when competing under the second-level allowance term in an optional $62,500 claiming race for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/8 miles.

But, after racing within range to the top of the stretch, Alpha Bettor began to retreat and wound up last in the field of nine, beaten by almost 20 lengths.

“He came out of that race with a bruised foot, and we had to back off him,” said Vella, who also is a member of the seven-member group known as Bulldog Racing which owns Alpha Bettor.

“He missed about a week of training after the race. His groom, Marlon Ramsey, spent a ton of time working on him and he’s seems to be perfect now.”

Silverleo takes a shot in Ontario Derby

Silverleo, who moved into Vella’s stable last month, will be making his second start for his new barn in the Ontario Derby.

Owned by Trini Posse Stable, Silverleo had finished 4 3/4 lengths back as the sixth-place finisher when competing in a second-level optional $62,500 claiming race.

That Sept. 4 race had been scheduled for turf but was run over a mile and 70 yards on the main track.

“He didn’t show as much speed as we expected but he came running on end, against some very tough older horses,” said Vella. “He’s training very well.”

Ms Silver Oak may improve in Selene

Ms Silver Oak, another relatively recent addition to the Vella stable, is slated to see action in Sunday’s Selene, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies which offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $250,000.

Bred in Kentucky and owned by Hidden Brook Farm and Dan Zucker, Ms Silver Oak made her local debut in a second-level optional $62,500 claiming race which originally had been scheduled for seven furlongs of turf but was run on the main track.

One of two 3-year-olds in the field of six fillies and mares, Ms Silver Oak showed early speed but weakened to finish 4 3/4 lengths behind the winner in fifth place.

Ms Silver Oak was making just her second start on a synthetic surface, having finished a closing fourth in a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland in April.

“She was in a ton of trouble in there,” said Vella. “She’s been here for about a month and a half now and I believe training and running on the Polytrack should set her up perfectly.”