08/24/2012 1:43PM

Woodbine: Grand Adventure returns to action in Play the King

Tom Keyser
Grand Adventure makes his first start since the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup when he runs in Sunday's Play the King.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario − Winless in seven starts last year in a hard-luck campaign, Grand Adventure returns for his first start since the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint when he runs in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King Stakes.

A seven-furlong turf race, the Play the King attracted a competitive field of 11. Grand Adventure is listed at 12-1 in Woodbine oddsmaker Ernie Perri’s morning line.

“He’s happy and healthy and everything,” said Malcolm Pierce, who saddles Grand Adventure for the first time Sunday. “I just wish I had a couple more works in him. When the training track turf closed for a break it threw me off schedule. I didn’t want to work him too hard on the main track. Hopefully, I’ve got him fit enough.”

Canada’s champion male turf horse in 2010, Grand Adventure has not raced since finishing 10th in the Turf Sprint. He had been at the Sam-Son property in Ocala before finally joining Pierce at Woodbine in late June.

“They had a lot of trouble with his feet,” Pierce said. “It took forever to get them to grow in. He’s missed half the season. Hopefully, we can make up for it with a strong finish.”

The Play the King is the main prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 16, but Pierce said he is looking more toward the Grade 1, $500,000 Nearctic Stakes, a six-furlong turf race here Oct. 14, Canadian International Day.

Grand Adventure has raced in two previous editions of the Nearctic. He was a troubled sixth, beaten 2 3/4 lengths, in 2009 and second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, in 2010.

Prep runner-up not in Play the King lineup

Bigstormbrewin’, who finished second in the 6 1/2-furlong turf allowance prep for the Play the King here Aug. 6, was not even nominated to the Play the King.

“He had a big effort in the prep, and we didn’t think he could come back and do that again in three weeks,” Pierce said. “I’m shopping for a spot for him right now.”

Bigstormbrewin’, a 4-year-old Sam-Son homebred, landed his first two allowance conditions in turf sprints here before missing by a neck in the prep, won by Play the King starter Artic Fern.

Stormy Rush comes off impressive third

Stormy Rush returns for the Play the King after finishing third by a neck in the prep.

Trained by Roger Attfield, Stormy Rush showed much promise as a 2-year-old in 2010, finishing third here in the Grade 3 Summer and fourth in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Bourbon on the grass. But Stormy Rush would race just once the following season, ending fourth in a turf allowance at Keeneland.

“He had major problems with his back and his neck,” Attfield said. “A number of vets said he was done.”

After wintering with Attfield at Payson Park, Stormy Rush defied those prognostications, returning from a one-year absence to land his second allowance condition at 5 1/2 furlongs on Keeneland’s turf course April 18.

After finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup and Grade 2 Highlander in his first two starts at this meeting, Stormy Rush earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 92 in the Aug. 6 prep.

Hollinger, another Attfield horse, was nominated to the Play the King but is not in the lineup.

“We sent him to the farm for three weeks,” Attfield said. “He’s been going all winter and spring.”

In his last start, Hollinger finished fourth behind Play the King entrant Riding the River in the July 22 Nijinsky at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Hollinger breezed four furlongs in a bullet 47.20 on the main track here Friday morning.

“He certainly breezed nicely,” Attfield said. “It looks like he’s doing well. There’s a good possibility we’ll look at the Woodbine Mile for him.”

Courtville, Seen It All go five furlongs on turf

Courtville and Seen It All before both worked five furlongs on the training track turf course here Friday in preparation for upcoming stakes.

Courtville was clocked in a bullet 59.80 under his regular rider, Omar Moreno, in his first experience over a turf course.

“He traveled well,” said Laurie Silvera, owner and trainer of the 3-year-old gelding.

Courtville is nominated to two stakes races here over the Labor Day weekend, Sunday’s Vice Regent and Monday’s Elgin. Both races are worth $125,000.

Silvera said he is leaning toward the Vice Regent, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds. The Elgin, a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race for male 3-year-olds and up, is one of six yearling sales stakes on the Monday program.

Courtville has placed in two main-track stakes at the meeting, ending a distant third in the open Victoria Park at 1 1/8 miles and second behind Jenna’s Wabbit, who is looming as the horse to beat in the Vice Regent, in the restricted Deputy Minister at seven furlongs.

Trainer Ashlee Brnjas said Seen It All Before is ready for the Vice Regent after he breezed in 1:00.80 under regular rider Luis Contreras. Seen It All Before is coming off a fourth-place finish, beaten nine lengths, in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here Aug. 5.

“Luis said the turf was a little soft there and he didn’t like it much,” Brnjas said.

Eternal Rule works for Presque Isle Mile

Eternal Rule breezed six furlongs in 1:13 on the main track Friday in preparation for the $250,000 Presque Isle Mile on Sept. 7. Eternal Rule recently suffered his first defeat in his sixth career start, losing by a head to Essence Hit Man in the 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture Stakes here July 18,

“He started his work slow and finished very good,” said Sid Attard, who conditions the homebred 4-year-old gelding Eternal Rule for Don Myers.

Eternal Rule has raced at Presque Isle once before, on June 20, when he scored a 2 1/4-length win in the Karl Boyes Memorial at 5 1/2 furlongs.

The Presque Isle Mile is a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up Sept. 7. Attard has been represented in the last two editions of the Presque Isle Mile, sending out Stunning Stag to finish third on each occasion.

◗ Post time for Woodbine’s first race on Fridays will revert to 1 p.m., effective Sept. 7. Friday racing began at 2 p.m. from May 25 through Sept. 28.