04/25/2012 12:23PM

Woodbine: Excaper rounding into form for return

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Michael Burns
Roxy Gap, under Patrick Husbands, gets up by a neck over Honey Chile in the Whimsical.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Excaper, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf for Black and owners Richard Kaster and Frederick Wieiting, had his first breeze of the season here last Sunday.

Bred in Kentucky, Excaper also ran second in the Summer over one mile of grass here last year and concluded his campaign with a third-place finish in Gulfstream’s Dania Beach over the same distance and surface on Dec. 18. After that race he came down with the neurological disease equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, said Black.

“He didn’t act right that day,” Black said. “He was hot and bothered, which is a symptom.”

Excaper wintered with Black at Payson Park.

“We gave him an easy month, and let his muscles build back up,” said Black, who is pleased with Excaper’s current state and is looking at the June 23 Charlie Barley as the colt’s first stakes target.

The $100,000 Charlie Barley, an open race for 3-year-olds over one mile of turf, is an overnight stakes and would require a field of at least five to be carded.

Roxy Gap back to best

Roxy Gap recorded her most important stakes victory to date here last Sunday, capturing the Grade 3 Whimsical by a neck under Patrick Husbands.

Trained by Mark Casse for owner/breeder Eugene Melnyk, Roxy Gap had won the Shady Well for Ontario-foals as a 2-year-old and the similarly restricted Fury here last year.

But, after following up her Fury score with a fourth-place finish in the Woodbine Oaks, Roxy Gap ran second behind stablemate Bingo as the odds-on choice in the Ontario Damsel and then was put away for the season.

“She’d been in training a long time, and after she got beat we decided to give her a break,” said Casse. “It’s a perfect example of Eugene and his group and their patience. Giving the horses time can be rewarding.

“As long as Roxy Gap stays healthy, I think she’s going to have a really productive 4-year-old year. She’s come back bigger and stronger.”

Roxy Gap had tuned up for the Whimsical with a third-place finish in a five-furlong turf race at Gulfstream in which Casse said she experienced significant trouble.

“Our feeling was she had never been better heading into the Whimsical,” said Casse. “I was quite confident, and I was really happy to draw the outside post. She’s maybe the consistently fastest-breaking filly I’ve had in a long time. She did it the other day, and Patrick wrangled her back.”

The Grade 2 Hendrie, a 6 1/2- furlong race worth $150,000 on May 19, is the next local stakes for the filly/mare division and is Roxy Gap’s immediate target.

Roxy Gap also is proven on turf, however, and Casse believes she can handle two turns.

“In the Oaks, she had a really rough trip,” said Casse. “Patrick thought she could have been right there.”

In the meantime Casse has another busy weekend ahead with Prospective slated to work at Churchill Downs on Saturday for  the Kentucky Derby, Stealcase entered there in that night’s Derby Trial, and both Dene Court and Northern Passion on tap for Sunday’s renewal of the Fury.