06/10/2011 2:13PM

Woodbine: Elite Alex sets his sights on Queen's Plate

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Barbara D. Livingston
Elite Alex is being pointed to a start in the Queen's Plate at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Elite Alex, based at Delaware Park with trainer Tim Ritchey, has joined the ranks of candidates for the June 26 Queen’s Plate.

With the New York-based Queen’splatekitten and Bowman’s Causeway and the Kentucky-based Maple Leaf Kitten also having the $1 million Queen’s Plate on their agendas, the number of American-based runners in the 158th running of Canada’s most famous horse race could reach its highest level to date.

Elite Alex, trained by Tim Ritchey, was on the Kentucky Derby trail earlier this year, but then finished a distant ninth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 16.

Returning at Delaware Park on May 11 in a first-level optional claimer that was meant to be a confidence-building experience, Elite Alex tracked a slow pace and was unable to threaten a runaway winner.

On Wednesday, Elite Alex breezed five furlongs in 57 seconds at Delaware Park.

“He breezed very well,” Ritchey said. “Hopefully, that’s the first of a couple of preps that will get him to the Queen’s Plate.

“I’d love to run there. We’ll know more after the next breeze or two. I want to have him 100 percent and doing well. I want to have the best shot we can.”

Ritchey, not wanting to put the jockey before the horse, has not yet lined up a rider for Elite Alex if the Queen’s Plate bid does materialize.

“He’s not a hard horse to ride,” Ritchey said. “It’s just the matter of getting someone on him who can give him a decent ride.”

Victoria Park comes up strong

The $150,000 Victoria Park Stakes, an open 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds that will be run here Sunday, generally has not featured a particularly strong lineup.

This year’s renewal of the Victoria Park had attracted just nine nominees, and although some decent potential invaders were on the list, the race did not figure to draw more than a handful of contestants.

But when entries were taken Thursday, the Victoria Park had lured nine entrants, including three supplements headed by the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Twinspired..

With original U.S.-based nominees Newsdad, Burj Alzain, and Code of Conduct also answering the bell, the Victoria Park suddenly became a deep and contentious event.

Locally based Seawatch, Pender Harbour, and Top Prospect also supplemented to the Victoria Park at a cost of $3,000.

And while Seawatch and Pender Harbour will be hoping to use the Victoria Park as a last-ditch stepping-stone to the Queen’s Plate, Top Prospect currently has no designs on the showpiece for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

“When I saw the nine nominees, I thought I’d supplement him and then I put him in there, just to run him,” said Ralph Biamonte, who trains Top Prospect for the C E C Farm of Eugene George. “I’ve been trying to get him in every race you could think of, since the meet started.”

Top Prospect, who had passed through his first allowance condition as a 2-year-old, finished sixth when making his sophomore bow in the six-furlong Woodstock Stakes here April 16.

Two weeks later, Top Prospect tried two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Wando and finished third, beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Check Your Soul.

Check Your Soul returned to romp in last Sunday’s Plate Trial, encouraging Biamonte to consider the Victoria Park.

When the overnight came out Thursday, however, Biamonte’s enthusiasm had waned somewhat.

“I’m not really too happy to be running him in here,” Biamonte said. “I don’t know if he’s that caliber of horse.”

Report Card Time euthanized

Biamonte and George had Queen’s Plate aspirations for Report Card Time, but those hopes came to a tragic end during a workout here early last month.

“He suffered a condylar fracture, and we had to put him down,” Biamonte said.

Report Card Time had started five times as a 2-year-old, concluding with a first-level allowance score at one mile and 70 yards in his first try around two turns.

The gelding also had performed respectably in two stakes tries, finishing fourth in the seven-furlong Simcoe for graduates of the local yearling sale and sixth in the Cup and Saucer for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

Fatal Bullet looking for victory

Trainer Reade Baker, who entered Moonshine Mullin in the Victoria Park off a close third in a first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles here May 8, also was surprised by the race’s final makeup.

"It’s a little tougher than I thought,” Baker said dryly.

Baker, however, has other interesting prospects on Sunday’s program as he will send out Fatal Bullet, Canada’s Horse of the Year and champion sprinter of 2009, and the comebacking Bear Tough Guy in separate allowance events.

Fatal Bullet is winless in nine starts since capturing the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland in fall 2009 and is coming off a fifth-place finish as the odds-on choice in an open allowance race at 5 1/2 furlongs at Presque Isle Downs on May 18.

“He got his hocks caught up in the starting gate there, and that basically eliminated him,” said Baker, who trains Fatal Bullet for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion.

“I think I’ve found a nice place for him here; I’m expecting him to run well.”

Bear’s Tough Guy, also owned by Dion, was undefeated in two starts, including the Grade 3 Grey Stakes as a 2-year-old here in 2009.

On Sunday, Bear Tough Guy is slated to return under second-level allowance terms in a 1 1/16-mile turf race that also has attracted Miami Deco, last year’s Breeders’ Stakes winner.

The field also includes restricted stakes winner Officeinthevalley and stakes-placed Mobilizer and Cognashene.

“It’s a thrill, getting Bear Tough Guy back in business,” Baker said. “He hurt himself as a 2-year-old and reinjured himself last year and was off another year.

“He’s going great right now.”

Sand Cove works for Steady Growth

Sand Cove, last year’s champion older male in Canada, breezed five furlongs in 1:00 on the training track turf course here Friday under regular rider Richard Dos Ramos and is heading for next Sunday’s Steady Growth Stakes.

“I worked him on turf, just for a change of scenery,” said Roger Attfield, who trains the 6-year-old Sand Cove for owner Ralph Johnson.

“He always goes well on turf. He works well anywhere.”

The Steady Growth is a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up, and Sand Cove won last year’s running in impressive fashion.