05/24/2013 1:12PM

Woodbine: Up With the Birds facing tough Marine competition

Michael Burns
In two starts this year, both on turf, Up with the Birds won the Black Gold over about 7 1/2 furlongs at the Fair Grounds and was a rallying second in the Transylvania over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Up With the Birds, trained by Malcolm Pierce, will be looking to use Sunday’s $150,000 Marine Stakes as his stepping-stone to the $1 million Queen’s Plate.

But the Marine, an open race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, has attracted a salty field that includes American-breds Winning Cause, Five Iron, and Ghost Hunter.

“The Plate Trial would have been easier,” said Pierce, noting that the June 9 Plate Trial is restricted to Canadian-breds.

“But we’re not looking for ‘easy,’ we’re looking for the right timing.”

That, for Pierce, means the Marine and its six weeks to the July 7 Queen’s Plate.

“This suits us,” said Pierce, who trains the homebred Up With the Birds for Sam-Son Farm.

Up With the Birds won his second and third outings last year, taking his maiden score at 1 1/16 miles and doubling up in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity for Canadian-breds.

In two starts this year, both on turf, Up with the Birds won the March 2 Black Gold over about 7 1/2 furlongs at the Fair Grounds and finished a rallying second in the April 5 Transylvania over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland.

“He’s really good. I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s training,” said Pierce. “This will be a really good test, to see how he runs in this open company. We’re looking for a big effort to go forward to the Queen’s Plate.”

Eurico Rosa da Silva, who rode Up With the Birds last year, regains the mount.

Winning Cause, trained by Todd Pletcher, had been under consideration for the Kentucky Derby after winning the Grade 3 Lexington over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland on April 20. But Pletcher elected to await the Marine for Winning Cause, whose two previous victories came at about seven furlongs on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface.

Pletcher won the 2010 and 2011 runnings of the Marine, with Exhi and Queen’splatekitten, but was 0 for 11 with his stakes starters here last year, his lone success in 13 tries coming with Doctor Chit in a first-level allowance.

Jockey Julien Leparoux will be seeking his third straight win aboard Winning Cause.

Ghost Hunter was beaten three-quarters of a length by Winning Cause as the runner-up in a first-level allowance at Keeneland on April 6. Stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for his next appearance, Ghost Hunter was a lapped-on third while competing under first-level allowance terms at Churchill Downs.

Ghost Hunter will be making his first start for trainer Dave Cotey after working five furlongs in 1:01.60 here last Sunday under jockey Skye Chernetz.

“He worked very well,” said Cotey. “Skye was very pleased with him.”

Ghost Hunter’s stay with Cotey will be brief, as owner Curt Kobza has sold a half-interest to Adam Wachtel and Nils Brous, and the colt will be going to trainer Bill Mott following the Marine.

Five Iron, trained by Brian Lynch, will be returning to two turns after finishing a rallying second in the six-furlong Woodstock here April 21.

Luis Contreras returns aboard Five Iron, who finished a close fourth in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Grey Stakes here last fall.

Rounding out the Marine lineup are Drenched, who is coming off a first-level allowance win at seven furlongs for trainer Josie Carroll, and Silent Admirer, second in his second career start and seasonal debut in a restricted first-level allowance at seven furlongs.

Both Drenched and Silent Admirer are Queen’s Plate nominees.