10/18/2011 12:31PM

Woodbine: Cox hits high point with Hard Not to Like

Michael Burns
Hard Not to Like, trained by Gail Cox and ridden by Patrick Husbands, wins the Cup and Saucer.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – She wasn’t a participant in the Grade 1 stakes extravaganza here last Sunday, but last weekend still was one to remember for trainer Gail Cox.

Hard Not to Like gave Cox the biggest win of her career in last Saturday’s $250,400 Cup and Saucer, a 1 1/16-mile turf race in which she was the lone member of her sex.

A homebred 2-year-old filly who races for Garland Williamson, Hard Not to Like had suffered her first defeat four weeks earlier when she finished fifth, beaten 10 1/4 lengths, in the Grade 3 Natalma over one mile on turf.

“She just had not a very good trip,” said Cox. “She got shuffled back. She came running on end, but she was just too far out of it.”

For Hard Not to Like, whose dam is the multiple stakes winner Like A Gem, the Cup and Saucer was her fourth start, with all those races coming on the grass.

“I was going to enter her on Poly for her first race, but I scoped her and she had a lot of mucus,” said Cox. “I couldn’t get it cleared up in time.

“The next race for her was on the turf, so I ran here there.”

Hard Not to Like rallied to score by a half-length in that six-furlong race, and Cox had planned to run back in the one-mile prep for the Natalma.

But when that race did not fill, Hard Not to Like wound up facing males over the same course and distance in the prep for the Grade 3 Summer and was a sharp 1 1/4-length winner.

Faced with the option of facing males again in the Cup and Saucer or waiting for the $250,000 Princess Elizabeth, a 1 1/16-mile main-track race for Canadian-bred fillies, Cox did not hesitate.

“I knew how much she likes the turf, and discounted her last race, so there wasn’t really any choice,” said Cox, who also believed that Hard Not to Like would handle the soft going.

“Her family liked soft turf,” said Cox, noting that Like A Gem had won two stakes and was undefeated in three career races on yielding surfaces and that Cool Gator, a half-brother to Hard Not to Like, had been stakes-placed on a yielding course.

That decision was vindicated in spades when Hard Not to Like, ridden by the first time by Patrick Husbands, romped to a 4 3/4-length victory that yielded a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 80.

Now Cox and Williamson will confer on their next move with Hard Not to Like, who will have next year’s Woodbine Oaks over 1 1/8 miles on the main track as a long-term objective.

“I think she’ll be very, very nice next year,” said Cox “She’s always breezed on Poly, and she’s breezed very well.”

Cox had enjoyed the best meeting of her career here last year, with 11 wins and a total of 23 in-the-money finishes and purse money of $754,295 from 67 starts in an outfit led by the stakes-winning mare Simply Splendid, whom she also owned in partnership with John Menary.

Heading into Wednesday’s card, with seven weeks remaining in the 2011 session, Cox had fashioned a record of 12-8-9 for purses of $737,703 from 77 starters.

Hard Not to Like has led the way, with her three wins and $248,900.

But the 3-year-old gelding Something Extra also has been a significant contributor with a record of 2-2-2 from 7 starts for $135,744 and the 4-year-old filly Miss Lola was 2 for 5 while collecting $133,660 with a chance to have added to those totals on Wednesday evening.

Both Something Extra and Miss Lola are owned by Cox and Menary, who also have a pair of promising 2-year-old maidens in the gelding Malibu Tide and the filly Promiscuous.

“I like them both a lot,” said Cox, who had watched Malibu Tide finished second in a one-mile turf race here Sept. 24 and Promiscuous end the runner-up one-week later at seven furlong on the main track.

◗ Action at the barn that housed the 20 European shippers for last weekend’s three Grade 1 turf stakes had slowed to a trickle on Tuesday morning.

Sarah Lynx and Joshua Tree, the 1-2 finishers in the Canadian International, and Mores Wells, who ran eighth there, were the only horses remaining, and they were booked to fly home on Tuesday evening along with their remaining connections.

◗ Entries were to be taken on Wednesday for the $125,000 Bunty Lawless, a one-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward here Saturday that is the last regularly-scheduled turf stakes of the season.

But with plenty of rain in the forecast, there is the possibility that the Bunty Lawless could be moved to the main track, which was the fate of the 1 1/8-mile Carotene Stakes here Oct. 2.

A pair of $100,000 overnight stakes are scheduled for one mile on turf on the final weekend of the month, with the River Memories for fillies and mares on Oct. 29 and the Lbeeb for 3-year-olds and upward on Oct. 30.

◗ A memorial service is being planned for longtime assistant trainer Lynn Kehlbreier, who died of liver disease at age 60 a week ago Monday.

Kehlbreier spent some 30 years with trainers Jim Day and then Mark Frostad at Sam-Son Farm, leaving the outfit only for a brief stint with Day when that trainer went out on his own in 1994.

Her survivors include her daughter, Liz, and grandchildren, Trent and Kristian. She was predeceased by her husband, Rudy, a longtime employee of Woodbine’s racing department.

Online condolences can be posted at newediukfuneralhome.com.


On an historical note, the last filly to win the Cup and Saucer was Atlantic Fury, a first-time starter who captured the 2001 edition for Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad.

The same connections had sent out the filly Sky Alliance to capture the Cup and Saucer the previous year.