07/27/2012 3:21PM

Woodbine: Dene Court going long in Wonder Where


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Dene Court will try to stretch her speed out to 10 furlongs on turf Sunday at Woodbine in the $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes, the final race of the Canadian triple tiara, a series for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Irish Mission captured the opening leg, the Woodbine Oaks, before facing males in the Canadian Triple Crown. A fresh Blue Heart took the middle stage, the Bison City Stakes, and she appears to be a viable candidate to stay the trip on Sunday.

Dene Court has stuck to the turf since ending up second in her season opener in the Fury Stakes. She won her second race after a long layoff in the 6 1/2-furlong Alywow Stakes on June 3. A month later in the one-mile Ontario Damsel Stakes, she set quick fractions before scoring by daylight and being eased up late by Patrick Husbands.

Trainer Mark Casse said he isn’t overly concerned with the Dene Court handling the longer distance.

“I really don’t see it being a problem,” Casse said. “She’s a City Zip, and they run all day long on turf. She’s as smart as a whip. I’d like to think that she’ll rate, but I don’t know for sure.”

Casse also entered another Melnyk Racing Stable runner, Black Bird Rock, who was fourth in the Oaks and second in the Bison City. She was never in contention in her lone turf start in her debut at Gulfstream, a race that should be ignored mainly because she missed the break, according to Casse.

“When she came to me from Melnyk’s farm, they told me she loves the turf,” Casse said.

Blue Heart, one of the better 2-year-old fillies at Woodbine last year, got a late start to her season because she was found in the fall to have bone bruising, according to trainer Brian Lynch.

Blue Heart rallied to finish a close second in her first race back in the Alywow. She subsequently took the 1 1/16-mile Bison City after an inside stalking trip on the Polytrack.

“If she gets to gallop in behind a slow pace like she did in the Bison City, then I think she’ll be really effective,” Lynch said. “Going a mile and a quarter, I think they’ll slow it down, and if she could just park in behind them, I think she’ll get the distance. If the pace is quicker, then the distance might be a question for her, but I can’t see the race being run that way.”

Lynch felt that Blue Heart’s belated return to action could work to her advantage.

“This is only her third start of the year, so she’s still a fresh filly,” Lynch said. “I think she’s just coming up to her better races.”

Awesome Fire, who is untested on the grass, was a prominent third in the Oaks before finishing a flat fourth in the Bison City.

Trainer Nick Gonzalez said he has few clues regarding Awesome Fire’s ability on turf, but the distance isn’t an issue for him.

“I’m sure she’ll get the distance,” said Gonzalez. “I don’t want to make excuses, but she’s been a victim of a slow pace in some of her races. It’s always different on the turf. I think there will be something legitimate in front of her. Whether or not she handles it, I don’t know. I’ve never even breezed her over the turf.”