06/22/2011 3:29PM

Woodbine: King Edward has intriguing field

Michael Burns
Artic Fern beings a four-race winning streak into the King Edward.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – While Sunday’s Queen’s Plate will be getting almost all of the headlines the most interesting stakes race run here this weekend well may be Saturday’s King Edward.

The field of 11 for the King Edward, a one-mile turf race that offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $250,000, features a number of proven Grade 1 performers, including Fifty Proof, Grand Adventure, Society’s Chairman, and Workin for Hops.

And then there are the up-and-comers, a group that includes the intriguing pair of Artic Fern and Court of the Realm

Artic Fern, trained by Mike Keogh, and Court of the Realm, trained by Peter Berringer, both are riding the crests of four-race win streaks dating back to last season and have earned the respect of both horseplayers and horsemen here at Woodbine.

The connections of the two 4-year-olds have run out of allowance conditions for their charges and opted for the King Edward over Sunday’s Grade 2 Highlander, a six-furlong turf race worth $200,000 to which they also were nominated.

Both have raced on or close to the pace throughout their win streaks but also have responded to rating tactics.

And, both will be seeking their first wins on the grass.

Artic Fern, in fact, will be trying the grass for the first time with his only previous experience on the medium having come in several workouts over the turf training track here last year.

“A mile, around one turn, might be his best game,” said Mike Keogh, who trains the homebred Artic Fern for owner Gustav Schickedanz.

“But, the competition’s going to be salty. We’re testing the waters, in his first time on turf and first time in a stake.”

At this time last year, Artic Fern was among the leading contenders for the Queen’s Plate after recording two impressive allowance victories in his first two tries around two turns.

But, all of the Queen’s Plate planning fell by the wayside after Artic Fern returned from his final workout in less than ideal order and wound up being sidelined for the rest of the season.

Following an encouraging winter in South Carolina, Artic Fern returned to Woodbine but fell ill after shipping and did not make his seasonal debut until April 30.

Artic Fern won that seven-furlong race in impressive fashion under regular rider David Clark and was slated to make his stakes debut here in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup over seven furlongs on turf on May 29.

The turf came up soft that day, however, and Artic Fern was among four horses in the programmed field of eight who stayed in the barn.

“He’d been away 11 months,” said Keogh. “I wasn’t going to run him on that.”

Artic Fern has continued his training regimen of once-a-week breezes, all over Keogh’s favored venue of the dirt training track, with the latest a five-furlong move in 1:01.60 here last Saturday.

“We’re just keeping him happy,” said Keogh.

Court of the Realm coming in to his own

Court of the Realm, a Kentucky-bred trained by Peter Berringer, wasn’t even a blip on the radar at this point last year, and that didn’t change much after the colt finished fifth in his July 18 debut at 6 1/2 furlongs.

That situation began to change, however, when Court of the Realm tried one mile of turf and was beaten just a head at almost 45-1 in his next start.

After finishing third next time out, in a seven-furlong turf race, Court of the Realm returned to the main track for a seven-furlong romp on Sept. 18.

And, Court of the Realm has never looked back, winning out his first two allowance conditions over 1 1/16 miles and then seven furlongs before being put away for the winter.

“His mile and a sixteenth race might have been his most impressive race, actually,” said Berringer.

“He ran well on turf, when he was second and third. Then he just started getting better and better on Polytrack, and didn’t go back to it because there was no turf racing left by then.”

Court of the Realm had difficulty finding a spot in which to begin his campaign but finally resurfaced on May 22 and was an impressive front-running winner under his regular rider, Eurico Rosa da Silva.

Berringer has sent out Court of the Realm for a pair of five-furlong breezes under exercise rider Ricky Browne since that seasonal debut, with both being clocked in 1:00 and the latest coming last Sunday.

“I’m just hoping for a fairly firm turf,” said Berringer. “Then, if he runs his race, this will be a true test.

“He doesn’t have to be on the lead. He can sit, too – he’s very rateable. The key is to get him into the pace he’s most comfortable with. He has a good cruising middle speed.

“The nice thing is to know that he excels on the Poly, in case this doesn’t work out. He’ll go short or long – if he turfs, it’s a real benefit.”

Saturday’s card also will feature the $150,000 My Dear Stakes, a five-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies, and a pair of open $100,000 overnight stakes, the 1 1/8 mile Trillium for fillies and mares and the Charlie Barley for 3-year-olds at one mile on the turf course.

Wildcat Marie runs second

Wildcat Marie, trained by Martin Drexler and ridden by Tyler Pizarro, finished third in Tuesday evening’s $100,000 Satin and Lace at Presque Isle Downs.

Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Wildcat Marie pressed a rapid pace in the 5 1/2-furlong Satin and Lace and put away the favored front-runner It’s Me Mom only to weaken late and finish two lengths behind the victorious Speedacious.

Wildcat Marie, who had won the six-furlong Whimsical and finished third in the 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie here in her previous starts this year, picked up $10,000 to bring her earnings for the campaign to $116,500.