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Woodbine: Griffith out to keep rolling in Colin
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Ricky Griffith has sent out the winners of the only open 2-year-old stakes thus far at the Woodbine meeting, capturing the five-furlong Victoria with the colt Ray’s Away and the five-furlong My Dear with the filly Just Got In.
On Saturday, Griffith will be looking to extend that streak when he saddles Ray’s Away for the Colin, an open six-furlong stakes with a purse of $150,000.
The Colin has attracted a field of seven that also includes the Mark Casse-trained pair of Honorable Guest, who was the runner-up in the Victoria, and Calgary Cat, a highly regarded first-time starter.
Bear’s Furr, a winner at first asking over subsequent Clarendon runner-up Jocosity, is the fourth locally based horse in the Colin field.
Adding intrigue to the Colin line-up will be the presence of last-out winners Hamp, Joha, and Triple Cross from points south of the border.
Ray’s Away debuted at 4 1/2 furlongs here May 13 and dropped a nose decision to Uncaptured, who came back to score impressively in the 5 1/2-furlong Clarendon Stakes for Ontario-breds on June 30. Ray’s Away returned with a sharp 2 1/4-length victory in the Victoria, defeating three rivals including the odds-on invading filly Allaboutcaroline.
Dan the Tin Man, also trained by Griffith, was beaten 8 1/4 lengths in the Victoria as the last-place finisher but returned to win his maiden here last Sunday.
Also Sunday, Ray’s Away put in a five-furlong breeze over the main track in 1:02.20.
“It wasn’t fast, but he did it the right way,” said Griffith, who trains Ray’s Away for the Debmar Stable of Glenn Harvey and Steve Duffield. "He’s relaxed and healthy. Physically and mentally, he’s going in the right direction.”
Griffith again will give his younger brother, Christopher Griffith a leg up on Ray’s Away, and the pair will begin from post 1, which also was their starting position in the Victoria.
Calgary Cat had been entered in the Clarendon along with his Mark Casse-trained stablemate Uncaptured but was scratched after drawing the 1 post.
“From what I’m seeing from him, he looks to be an exceptional horse,” said Casse. “But it’s tough to run against these horses that have had two or three starts. He’ll have to be much better than them to win.”
Bred in Canada and owned by John Oxley, Calgary Cat was a $40,000 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale.
Calgary Cat drew the 5 post and will have Patrick Husbands in the irons.
The shippers come in with varying credentials, as Hamp comes off a maiden turf victory at Colonial Downs for trainer Ignacio Correas IV; Joha graduated over six furlongs on turf at Belmont for Chad Brown; and Triple Cross notched his second win in as many starts at Presque Isle Downs for Wayne Rice.
Locally based riders Luis Contreras and Justin Stein have picked up the respective calls on Hamp and Joha, while Arienne Cox retains the mount on Triple Cross.
Serious earners in allowance
An optional $75,000-$80,000 claiming race at 1 1/8 miles on the turf here Saturday has attracted an intriguing lineup that features a meeting of 2009 Queen’s Plate winner Eye of the Leopard and 2010 Queen’s Plate winner Big Red Mike.
Big Red Mike brings in a career bankroll of $858,885, and Eye of the Leopard has earned $852,932.
Neither is the top money winner in the field, however, as that distinction belongs to Stormy Lord, a multiple stakes winner of $927,298 who has been entered for the $80,000 claiming price.
“I didn’t expect to see two Plate winners in there,” said Stormy Lord’s trainer, Ian Black. “But if the turf’s not too firm, he should be okay in there. He doesn’t have to go so quickly early at a mile and an eighth.”
Eye of the Leopard, who was trained by Mark Frostad when he won the Queen’s Plate but now is with Malcolm Pierce, fits Sunday’s race under a clause that admits horses who have not won since July 14, 2011. His last victory came on Sept. 15, 2010, when he landed his third allowance condition.
“I was going to run both him and Hotep in the Nijinsky,” said Pierce, with reference to that Grade 2, $300,000 turf stakes at 1 1/8 miles here July 22. “Now, I can keep them apart. But this certainly didn’t come up an easy spot.”
Big Red Mike, trained by Nick Gonzalez, was entered for the $75,000 price.
Just Got In back training
While Ray’s Away runs for Griffith in the Colin, Just Got In came back to the track on Tuesday for the first time since her win in the My Dear on June 24. Just Got in was all out to prevail by a neck in the My Dear, and Griffith is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding the $150,000 Ontario Debutante, an open six-furlong race here Aug. 11 that would be her next logical target.
“That race was hard on her,” said Griffith. “She’d had a bit of a setback earlier that week. She went home for two weeks after that, kind of rolled around the paddock, dropped her head, and we let her be a horse again.
Casse well represented
Bold Birdie finished second in Just Got In’s maiden victory May 26, came back to win her maiden in open company and is entered in Sunday’s $150,000 Shady Well, a 5 1/2-furlong race for Ontario-bred 3-year-old fillies that attracted a field of 10.
Mark Casse trains Bold Birdie and also has entered the highly regarded first-time starter Spring in the Air for the Shady Well.
Casse himself, however, will be at Fort Erie on Sunday to saddle Dixie Strike for the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes.
A field of nine, all based at Woodbine, was entered on Wednesday for the Prince of Wales, a 1 3/16-mile dirt race that follows the Queen’s Plate as the second leg in the triple crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.
Trainers Ralph Biamonte and Mike Keogh also have horses in both the Shady Well and the Prince of Wales.
Biamonte has the first-out winner Cryptic Message in the Shady Well and will saddle Menlo Castle and Run in Aruba at Fort Erie.
Keogh has Ultimate Destiny in the Prince of Wales and has entered first-time starter Nadurra in the Shady Well.