06/01/2011 2:36PM

Woodbine: England taking a shot in Nassau


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Deborah England knows she’ll be taking on some big guns here in Sunday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau Stakes.

But England has defied the odds before, perhaps most notably when she sent out the late Marlang to win the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes here in 2008. She will be looking to do so again, with both Woolly Bear and Stormy Illusion entered in the first scheduled filly and mare turf stakes of the meeting.

“You have to take a chance once in a while,” England said.

Woolly Bear, a 5-year-old New York-bred who races for Douglas and Stuart Reddington, made her stakes debut in last August’s 1 1/8-mile Yaddo over Saratoga’s turf course and led much of the way before weakening slightly to finish fourth.

Back at Woodbine, Woolly Bear ended a strong second in the Avowal over seven furlongs of turf. That Sept. 5 race was her last of the season.

“Once she’d finished second in the stakes, she popped a little splint,” England said. “That’s why she didn’t make it back.”

After wintering on Reddington’s nearby farm, Woolly Bear resurfaced under second-level allowance terms in a seven-furlong Polytrack race here May 15 and finished second behind Amiable Grace.

“I thought she ran well,” England said. “The horse that beat her had been training all winter and raced once here.

“And, I think Woolly’s quite a bit better on the grass. This is a tough race, but I think a mile is a great distance for her.”

Stormy Illusion, a Kentucky-bred 6-year-old who is owned by Douglas Reddington, would be making her seasonal bow in the Nassau.

“They have the same condition,” England said, noting that both Woolly Bear and Stormy Illusion also remain eligible for a second-level allowance.

“They ran against each other one time and finished a nose apart.”

That encounter occurred here last June 25, when Woolly Bear finished second and Stormy Illusion third in a first-level allowance over one mile of turf.

Attfield has three for Nassau

Trainer Roger Attfield has entered Miss Keller, Mekong Melody, and Oregon Lady in the Nassau, and as of Wednesday morning all three were scheduled to start.

Miss Keller, last year’s Sovereign Award winner in the turf female category, had been scheduled to fly to California for last weekend’s Gamely at Hollywood Park but did not scope well after her final breeze here and did not make the trip.

“I just pulled a blood on her, and it came back okay,” said Attfield, who trains the 5-year-old Miss Keller for Three Chimneys Racing LLC.

”We’ll have to rescope her, and if the mucus has cleared up, she’ll be fine.”

Eurico Rosa da Silva has the call on Miss Keller.

Mekong Melody, a homebred 6-year-old who races for David Egan, will be making her seasonal bow with her regular local rider Patrick Husbands in the irons.

Oregon Lady who races for Dick Bonnycastle’s Harlequin Ranches, will be seeking her fourth consecutive win as she makes her stakes debut.

Jono Jones, who has the call on Oregon Lady for the Nassau, was in the irons when the 4-year-old filly breezed four furlongs in 47.20 seconds on the main track here Wednesday while going in company with No Explaining and Abrianna.

Assistant trainer Suzanne Lorimer was aboard No Explaining, who became a stakes winner when capturing Pimlico’s Grade 3 Gallorette over one mile of turf last time out.

Exercise rider Darren Fortune rode Abrianna, who was having her final tune-up for Sunday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.

Abrianna, a homebred who races for Stronach Stables, will be looking to give Attfield his fourth win in the Woodbine Oaks and his first since Capdiva showed the way in 1997.

“She’s light on experience, but she definitely has talent,” said Attfield, noting that Abrianna will be making just her fifth career start and her first outside the maiden ranks in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Abrianna debuted here Oct. 24, rallying to miss by just a head as the runner-up in a seven-furlong maiden race. She then was a disappointing sixth when stretching out to 1 1/16 miles in her second and final start of the season.

“Her first race was obviously a big race; we were very pleased with it,” Attfield said. “She came with a big run.”

“When we ran her back, we thought she had a very good chance, but she came back chock-a-block full of mucus. We gave her a bit of time, and after she was over that, we shipped her to Florida.”

Abrianna wintered with Attffield at Payson Park and interrupted her journey home with a stopover at Keeneland, where she closed to finish second in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race.

“It was a very good race,” Attfield said. “Again, she made a good run.”

Back at Woodbine, Abrianna’s rally carried her to a 2 1/2-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race here May 14, which will serve as her springboard to the Woodbine Oaks.

Luis Contreras was aboard that day but will partner the favored Inglorious in the Woodbine Oaks. Javier Castellano will ship in for the mount on Abrianna.

CBC, TVG to provide Oaks coverage

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will be covering both the Woodbine Oaks and the Plate Trial in a one-hour live broadcast beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The Plate Trial is scheduled as the eighth of 11 races, with post time scheduled for 4:41 p.m. Post time for the Woodbine Oaks is 5:16 p.m.
Brenda Irving, Jim Bannon, Jeff Bratt, and Dawn Lupul will be the on-air talent, with Woodbine announcer Dan Loiselle providing the call of the race.

Chris Elias will direct and Jeff Pearlman is the producer.

TVG, which regularly offers Woodbine racing as one of its products, also will have a crew on hand here Sunday to offer analysis of the Woodbine Oaks and Plate Trial for its audience back in the United States.

Paul Lo Duca and Simon Bray will be the hosts.