08/04/2012 1:58PM

Woodbine: Buttigieg duo hard to separate in Shepperton

Michael Burns
Gypsy Ring (above) is one of two strong contenders trainer Paul Buttigieg has in Monday's Shepperton.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Owner/trainer Paul Buttigieg should have a powerful one-two punch in the $125,000 Shepperton on holiday Monday, when he runs Gypsy Ring and Royal Egbert in the 6 1/2-furlong Ontario-sired stakes at Woodbine.

“If you ask me who the better horse is right now, I couldn’t tell you,” said Buttigieg. Buttigieg’s admission is surprising, considering that the accomplished Gypsy Ring was a Sovereign Award finalist for 2011 Canadian champion sprinter. In fact, the three-time stakes winner has consistently earned Beyer Speed Figures in the 90s, while the speedy Royal Egbert has never contested a stakes.

Gypsy Ring notched his first two starts this year against Ontario-sired stakes company, in the five-furlong Debut and six-furlong New Providence.

Most recently on June 24, Gypsy Ring tested open company on the grass in the Grade 2 Highlander Stakes, in which he closed for third behind Smokey Fire and next-out stakes winner Essence Hit Man. Two other horses have exited the six-furlong Highlander to score.

“It was a good race,” said Buttigieg. “One horse was on top of his game, and the other horse is tough all the time.”

Buttigieg said the 6-year-old Gypsy Ring been more enthusiastic than usual in the mornings of late.

“He’s been training fantastic,” said Buttigieg. “He’s feeling better in the mornings. He’s tough as nails right now. It’s been a long time between races, but he has no conditions. You have to play with him between races.”

Royal Egbert, a lightly raced 4-year-old, graduated third time out last fall by five lengths, with an 84 Beyer Figure.

Royal Egbert won both of his outings convincingly this year in Ontario-sired allowance company. He beat nonwinners-of-two opposition over five furlongs June 17, and then wired nonwinners-of-three foes traveling six furlongs July 15.

“He’s always had his troubles, but he’s always been fast,” said Buttigieg. “I took a chip out of his knee last fall. Right now, he’s in top order. This is six and a half, and I don’t know how far he’ll go. If he slows down at all, Gypsy will get him.”

Raincoats’ntuxedos, a 3-year-old trained by Abraham Katryan, could join Royal Egbert on the front end. He found the mark twice in Ontario-sired allowance company in the spring, and is coming off back-to-back seconds, in the restricted Bold Ruckus Stakes and an open allowance.

Katryan also entered Red Eagle. He also has speed, but the 4-year-old figures to assume an early stalking position after breaking from the outside in the six-horse field.