09/02/2011 9:31PM

Woodbine: Defending champs back for Sales Stakes

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Michael Burns
Sand Cove, who won the Steady Growth in June, will try to make amends for his loss as the odds-on favorite in last year's Elgin on Monday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The four winners of last year’s yearling sales stakes for 3-year-olds and upward will be back to defend their titles on Monday’s program.

Guipago, who captured the Halton over one mile of turf; Mesa Cielo, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Elgin for colts and geldings; Secret Wish, victorious in the 1 1/16-mile Algoma for fillies and mares; and Don’s Folly, who took the six-furlong Kenora, will face varying degrees of difficulty in duplicating those efforts.

And if the defending champions have good afternoons the odds are that the same will be true for jockey Jim McAleney, who rides Guipago, Mesa Cielo and Secret Wish.

Guipago, trained by Analissa Delmas, paid off at $19 after closing for a half-length win over the 1-2 Society’s Chairman in the Halton.

In his last start, which came in the With Approval for Ontario foals over 1 1/8 miles of grass, Guipago finished a non-threatening sixth.

“He had the virus; the whole barn was sick,” said assistant trainer Carlos Grant. “Hopefully, he’s over it. He’s training good; he looks back to himself now.”

Society’s Chairman, who was seeking his third straight Halton victory last year, will be making his first start since finishing a closing third in the Grade 2 King Edward over one mile of turf here June 25.

“There hasn’t been a race for him,” said trainer Roger Attfield.

Society’s Chairman tuned up for the Halton with a five-furlong breeze in 59.40 on the turf training track here Wednesday under Patrick Husbands, who has picked up the mount for the Halton.

Mesa Cielo, conditioned by Reade Baker, returned $14.50 for his front-running 2 1/2-length score in the Elgin, with the 3-10 Sand Cove 6 3/4 lengths back in third place.

A 5-year-old gelding, Mesa Cielo was making his first start in almost eight weeks and comes into this year’s Elgin off a slightly longer layoff.

“He’s a horse that can’t take very much racing,” said Baker, who trains Mesa Cielo. “Certainly, after this long off a race he starts to get feisty.”

Sand Cove, a 6-year-old horse trained by Attfield, won the Elgin in 2009 and was Canada’s champion older male last year. He is back to face Mesa Cielo again on Monday.

“He’s in great shape,” said Attfield. “He’s only had three races this year, and his last race was very good.”

Sand Cove’s latest was a third-place finish on Aug. 6 in the 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup, a Grade 3 race he won in 2010.

Secret Wish was 13-1 when she rallied for a one-length in last year’s Algoma.

Trained by Liz Charalambous, Secret Wish was making her fifth start of the season there and comes into Monday’s Algoma on a similar schedule.

“She has a tough time competing against the open older mares, but these will be easier,” said Charalambous, who has watched Secret Wish pick up minor awards in three of her four starts this season. “I’ve trained her pretty much the same way as I did last year. I gave her July off because of the heat, and ran her in a 6 1/2-furlong race last time. She ran really well.”

Clear Lake was seventh as the favorite in last year’s Algoma, and will be looking to make amends.

Trainer Paul Attard said the 5-year-old Clear Lake can’t run too often.

“I gave her some time off during the heat of the summer, and she’s had four good works,” he said. “If she’s right, she should be the class of the field.”

Don’s Folly, who rallied from just off the pace to capture last year’s Kenora by a neck, is coming off a fourth-place finish in the restricted Shepperton at 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 10.

The Shepperton was Don’s Folly’s first start since May 22, when he finished third in the restricted New Providence at six furlongs.

“He was carried wide on the turn last time,” said Black. “He’s in good order; he’s worked well.

Don’s Folly tuned up for the Kenora with a four-furlong breeze in 47 here last Tuesday.

Race for Gold and Arepeatee, who ran second and third in the Shepperton for trainer Bob Tiller, also are back for the Kenora and are the principal threats.