05/23/2012 12:02PM

Woodbine: Attfield takes advantage of open training track turf course


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The training track turf course opened for its first official session Wednesday, and Roger Attfield, as usual, was the best customer.

Attfield sent out 12 of the 27 turf workers, with several prepping for upcoming stakes races including both offerings here this weekened.

Check Your Soul, with Alex Solis in the irons, was clocked in 59 seconds while going in company with two stablemates and has been entered in Saturday’s Eclipse.

The Eclipse, a 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and up, offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000. It attracted a field of 11.

“There’s nowhere else to run him,” said Attfield, who watched Check Your Soul finish eighth of 11 in a third-level allowance at Keeneland on April 14 when making his first start in almost nine months.

Check Your Soul put together a stakes double here last spring, capturing the 1 1/16-mile Wando and the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, before finishing out of the money in both the Queen’s Plate and Fort Erie’s Prince of Wales Stakes.

Stormy Rush, with Patrick Husbands doing the honors, breezed a half-mile in 48 seconds in preparation for Sunday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Connaught Cup.

The Connaught Cup, a seven-furlong turf race for 4-year-olds and up, is expected to attract a good-sized field headed by defending champion Stormy Lord who will have regular rider Justin Stein in the irons.

Stormy Rush returned from an absence of more than a year to capture a second-level, 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance at Keeneland on April 18.

Simmard also is slated to see action this weekend, in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. He was timed in 1:01 while working with the venerable Musketier

Tyler Pizarro was aboard Simmard, while exercise rider Suzanne Lorimer guided Musketier to a 1:00.80 clocking.

Skylara, who is slated to see action here in next Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau Stakes, breezed five furlongs in 59.1 while going in company with Hollinger.

Richard Dos Ramos worked Skylara, and Pizarro was aboard Hollinger, who was nominated to the Connaught Cup but will await the Grade 2, $250,000 King Edward Stakes over one mile of turf here June 24.

Skylara finished sixth while making her seasonal bow under third-level allowance terms over seven furlongs of Keeneland’s Polytrack surface last time out, but ran well on the local turf course last year.

Bay to Bay, who also is nominated to the Nassau, breezed five furlongs in 59.20 on the training track turf course with Husbands in the irons.

Luis Contreras is the regular rider of Bay to Bay, but has the call on Inglorious for the Nassau.

Owner Rob Smithen also is considering Bay to Bay for the Grade 1, $500,000 Just a Game for fillies and mares over one mile of turf at Belmont on June 9.

Bay to Bay is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes over 1 1/16 miles of turf at Keeneland on April 14.

The Just a Game should have local representation in any case as Roxy Gap, trained by Mark Casse, is heading in that direction for owner/breeder Eugene Melnyk.

Roxy Gap is coming off back-to-back wins in Polytrack stakes here, having captured last Saturday’s Grade 2, 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie four weeks after taking the Grade 3 Whimsical at six furlongs.

Gypsy Ring points to Highlander

Paul Buttigieg, as is his custom, was watching from his couch at his nearby farm when Gypsy Ring went postward in Monday’s $125,000 New Providence.

But a glitch in the programming caused the signal to cut out with about a quarter-mile remaining, and Buttigieg was right on the phone to his assistant, Rick Hayashi, to find out what had transpired in the stretch run.

“He said ‘I think we won.’ ” Buttigieg said.

Hayashi was leaving himself plenty of room for error as Gypsy Ring had prevailed by three-quarters of a length in the New Providence, picking up $75,000 to bring his career bankroll to $674,834.

Buttigieg, who is the trainer, owner, and breeder of the 6-year-old gelding, has been the main beneficiary of that largesse, and Gypsy Ring should be looking for his biggest payday to date in the Grade 2, $200,000 Highlander over six furlongs of turf here June 24.

“I think he’s definitely a better horse on the turf,” said Buttigieg, who watched Gypsy Ring finish third, beaten a neck and a head, in the Grade 1, $500,000 Nearctic over six furlongs on that surface here last fall.

Following the Highlander, Gypsy Ring will have restricted main-track sprints like the Aug. 6 Shepperton and the Sept. 22 Overskate, as well as the Oct. 14 Nearctic, on his long-term schedule.

“We’ll see how long he stays good,” Buttigieg said.

Awesome Oveture out with chip

Awesome Overture, who had stamped himself as a possible Queen’s Plate candidate when winning his maiden first crack out in impressive fashion here April 29, will not see action again this season.

“He had to have a chip taken out of a knee,” said Paul Attard, who trains the homebred Awesome Overture for Chiefswood Stable.

Debuting at 1 1/16 miles, Awesome Overture came from just off to pace to score by 2 3/4 lengths. His Beyer Speed Figure was a very respectable 82.

Friday first posts at 1:05 p.m.

Friday post times were to move forward to 2 p.m. this week, but now will be scheduled for 1:05 p.m. through June 22.

The change was precipitated by an agreement with the New York Racing Association under which Woodbine will appear on the simulcast broadcast between the host track’s races.

“The arrangement has done very well for our wagering,” said Steve Koch, vice president of Thoroughbred racing for the Woodbine Entertainment Group. “Moving the posts back on Fridays will allow us to make the most of these opportunities.”

Woodbine will move to the 2 p.m. post on June 29, when Belmont will be shifting to a 3 p.m. Friday post time through July 13.

Saratoga, which opens July 20, will be not be including the Woodbine races on its NYRA show.