05/16/2012 11:48AM

Woodbine: Hard Not to Like may skip Oaks in favor of Queen's Plate


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Hard Not to Like, who is one of the leading candidates for the June 3 Woodbine Oaks, could bypass that $500,000 race and head straight to the June 24 Queen’s Plate.

Owned and bred by Garland Williamson, Hard Not to Like finished second when making her 3-year-old bow and Polytrack debut in Keeneland’s Ashland on April 22 and was trying dirt for the first time when a troubled sixth in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks.

“She ran really hard in the Ashland,” said trainer Gail Cox. “When she was back in Kentucky for the Oaks, it was 85 degrees every day.

“She was pretty tired after that last race. It was a pretty tough racetrack.”

Cox has asked little of Hard Not to Like since the filly returned to Woodbine.

“She’s had a bit of an easy time,” said the trainer. “She’s been relaxing, hacking around, playing around the shed row.

“We’re going to let her tell us if four weeks between the Oaks is going to be enough time.”

In the meantime, probable starters for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, include Dixie Strike, Northern Passion, and Black Bird Rock from the barn of trainer Mark Casse.

All would be coming in off victories with Dixie Strike having captured last Sunday’s 1 1/16-mile Selene, Northern Passion having prevailed in the seven-furlong Fury on April 29, and Black Bird Rock having graduated in just her second career start and local bow while traveling 1 1/16 miles here April 28.

Other last-out maiden winners with designs on the Woodbine Oaks are Horseshoe Hill, who scored at 1 1/16 miles here last Saturday for trainer Mike Doyle, and Irish Mission, who earned her diploma at Keeneland on April 26 over 1 3/16 miles of turf for trainer Mark Frostad.

Local trio in Preakness undercard stakes

Locally based Trend, Forte dei Marmi, and Smart Sting left early Wednesday morning and are scheduled to participate in stakes races at Pimlico on Saturday, Preakness Day.

Trend, who is trained by Frostad, and Forte dei Marmi, conditioned by Roger Attfield, are scheduled to compete in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Frostad won the Dixie with Quiet Resolve in 2000 and Strut the Stage in 2002. He also sent out Sky Colony to finish second in the 1998 and 1999 runnings.

Alex Solis, who recently made Woodbine his base of operations, has the call on Trend.

Forte dei Marmi will be ridden by Mike Smith and will be looking to give Attfield his first win in the Dixie. Perfect Soul finished second for the barn in 2003.

Smart Sting, who will have John Velazquez aboard, has been entered in the Gallorette, a Grade 3, $150,000 race for fillies and mares which is carded for 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Attfield sent out No Explaining to capture last year’s Gallorette and gave both Smart Sting and Forte dei Marmi the green light for Baltimore after watching them breeze five furlongs together here Tuesday in 1:01.

Simmard, Musketier possible for Louisville

The Attfield stable could have another out-of-town stakes representative next Saturday, May 26, with both Simmard and Musketier under consideration for the Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs.

The Louisville, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward, offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $100,000.

Simmard, with Solis in the irons, and Musketier, under Eurico Rosa Da Silva, breezed six furlongs in 1:14.20 while going in company here Wednesday morning.

“I’ll probably send one of them – which one will depend how they come out of their works,” said Attfield.

Simmard and Musketier both made their most recent starts in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Elkhorn over 1 1/2 miles of turf with the 7-year-old Musketier checking in fourth.

Other Attfield workers here Wednesday included Check Your Soul and Good Better Best, both of whom are on the comeback trail.

Both horses worked six furlongs with Good Better Best clocked in 1:13.60 and Check Your Soul in 1:14.60.

Check Your Soul, a homebred 4-year-old who races for Charles Fipke, was sidelined after finishing last of seven in Fort Erie’s Prince of Wales last July and was making his first start in almost nine months when finishing eighth in a third-level allowance over 1 1/8 miles of turf at Keeneland last month.

If a better opportunity is not forthcoming then Check Your Soul could make his next start in the Eclipse Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and upward here May 26 which offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000.

Good Better Best, a Queen’s Plate candidate heading into his 3-year-old season in 2011, was a first-level allowance winner at Keeneland that April 11 but has not seen action since then.

“He got hurt in his stall, in a thunderstorm at Keeneland, and got a lot of time off,” said Attfield, adding that Good Better Best has been working well and is ready to run.

Annie’s Beauty opts for Hendrie

Anne’s Beauty, who also had been under consideration for the Gallorette, will make her local seasonal bow here Saturday in the 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie Stakes for fillies and mares.

“It’s a little short for her,” said Paul Attard, who trains the Kentucky-bred 4-year-old Anne’s Beauty for owner Rob Smithen. “But, she’s ready to run.”

Heading the field for the Grade 2 Hendrie are Roxy Gap and Atlantic Hurricane, the first- and third-place finishers in the Grade 3 Whimsical here April 22.

The Hendrie also has attracted the shippers Dr. Diamonds Prize, who is based in Kentucky with trainer Mark Hubley, and Kitty in a Tizzy, a member of trainer Jim Bond’s Saratoga division who is returning to Woodbine after finishing fourth in the Whimsical.

Rounding out the field will be Sweet Cassiopeia, who ran fifth in the Whimsical after breaking from the inside post for conditioner Barbara Minshall, the Mike Doyle-trained pair of Dancing Raven and Dance to the Moon, who ended sixth and seventh in the Whimsical but were beaten just slightly more than five lengths; and Rashnaa, who will be making her seasonal bow for trainer Bob Tiller.

◗ Jim Mazur will host a one-hour Preakness Day handicapping seminar here Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. on the third floor of the grandstand. Attendees will receive free copies of the Mazur publications “Preakness Zone” and “Sire Ratings.”