11/25/2011 3:26PM

Woodbine: Bridgeburner going for three straight in Display Stakes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Ian Howard will be heading back to Ocala this winter, taking a small string to Classic Mile.

But Howard has some important business in the interim, with Bridgeburner slated to go postward in Sunday’s $150,000 Display at 1 1/16 miles and Quaesitor eyeing a maiden race scheduled for next week.

Bridgeburner is owned by Howard’s 27-year-old son, Chris, who is a member of the stable crew and was with his father when the Florida-bred Bridgeburner was purchased in Ocala this April.

“We were watching horses work for the sale,” the senior Howard said. Ontario-based “jockey Chris Griffith was on one, for Ocala Stud, and he breezed well. We went and looked at him and liked him, but we didn’t think we’d be able to afford him.”

The Howards did stretch the budget a bit when going to $42,000, but Bridgeburner has given them no cause for regrets.

“The first thing we did was turn him out for three months,” Howard said. “He was still pretty immature.”

Bridgeburner debuted in a six-furlong turf race Aug. 28 in which he showed speed but faltered to finish fifth.

“That was when the grass was very torn up,” Howard said. “He was pretty green and didn’t seem to handle it at all. He was kind of looking at everything coming around the turn. We just threw the race out. He’d always acted like he was a nice horse.”

Moving to Polytrack for his second start, Bridgeburner again displayed early foot at six furlongs, but hung tough to finish second behind Colleen’s Sailor, who also is in the Display lineup.

Bridgeburner has since put together back-to-back wins, in a six-furlong maiden race and a seven-furlong first-level allowance race under regular rider Justin Stein.

His immediate victim in that last race was Runaway Lion, who finished a neck behind Bridgeburner and also is back for the Display.

“My horse has just got better and better,” Howard said. “Justin’s got him to come off the bridle a little bit, just taken him back.”

“He really went after that horse last time and gutted it out. And with the way he’s relaxed, and the way he’s trained, I can’t see that he won’t go two turns. But you never know until you try it.”

Quasitor, an Ontario-foaled homebred who races for Wayward Stable, already is proven around two turns, having tried nothing else in his two starts to date.

After rallying strongly to finish second in his debut, which came in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race won by Display contestant Patrioticandproud, Quaesitor took a shot in the Coronation Futurity and was beaten just 5 1/2 lengths as the fifth-place finisher in that 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds.

“He’s still pretty green, but I think he’s very talented,” Howard said. “We’ll get a chance to work on him this winter, get him to relax and be a little more focused.”

Quaesitor, and possibly Bridgeburner, will be among the three or four horses who will accompany Howard to Classic Mile this winter.

“It’s good to be down there before the sales and see the horses,” Howard said. “We’ll probably look for another one or two.”

Hemlock Channel stretches out

Hemlock Channel, an Ontario-foaled 2-year-old trained by David Bell, also will be stretching out from seven furlongs for the Display.

But Hemlock Channel is in a different position as he will be making just his second career.

Bell, who trains Hemlock Channel for Pine Valley Training Centre, believes that now is as good a time as any to give the gelding a shot at trying the two-turn distance.

“I’d entered him in a nonwinners-other-than, which didn’t go, but I thought it was going to be a bit short for him anyway,” said Bell, with reference to a six-furlong race offered for Friday’s card. “Before we can give him any kind of a race at a mile and a sixteenth next year, it’s probably going to be the end of May.”

Hemlock Channel went through the ring at the local select yearling sale last year, but his $5,000 reserve was not met.

“He was kind of a big ugly duckling, and he didn’t get a live bid,” Bell said. “Pine Valley worked out a deal afterward, and I was going to go partners with them, but I decided I had too many horses already.”

Hemlock Channel debuted for $50,000 here Nov. 5 and was a going-away winner at 6 1/2 furlongs under jockey Stein.

“He’s a big horse, and I didn’t want to start him going too short,” Bell said. “He’d trained like a nice horse; I wasn’t too surprised that he won.

“It’s a big step, looking at this race, but on his pedigree he should go two turns. He’s doing really well, so we’re going to give it a shot.”

With Stein staying with Bridgeburner, jockey Jim McAleney will do the honors aboard Hemlock Channel.

Bell, who has not winter-raced for several years, will be staying in Ontario again following the end of the Woodbine meeting.

“I’ll be spending the winter at Kinghaven Farm,” Bell said. “I have 14 stalls, and I’ll just do my own thing up there.”

Awesome Fire set for Ontario Lassie

Awesome Fire and Evil Kitten breezed five furlongs in 1:03.20 here Friday morning in preparation for next Saturday’s $150,000 Ontario Lassie.

Trained by Nick Gonzalez, who currently is in Florida while his wife and assistant, Martha, runs the show here, Awesome Fire and Evil Kitten finished 1-2 in a first-level allowance at a mile and 70 yards last time out.

The Ontario Lassie, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies, is expected to attract a strong field, including stakes winners Rose and Shine, Blue Heart, and Grace Phil.

Dixie Strike, who split Rose and Shine and Blue Heart when second last time out in the $250,000 Princess Elizabeth for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies on Oct. 29, also is on target for the Ontario Lassie along with Casa Loma and Memories Last Love.

Casa Loma finished a close fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth, and Memories for Love ran second behind Casa Loma’s stablemate Grace Phil in the 1 1/16-mile South Ocean for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies here Nov. 9.