10/11/2006 11:00PM

Woodbine latest stop on Schnell's tour

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Don Schnell has been getting around this year, starting out in Turf Paradise and moving on to race at Prairie Meadows, Canterbury, Arlington, and Remington.

Now Schnell, a 53-year-old native of Alberta, has hung up his shingle at Woodbine, and the early returns have been encouraging.

Schnell, who has six horses here, recorded his second win from four starters here when Sonoma Storm was a front-running winner for a $50,000 claiming price on Wednesday night.

One week earlier, Schnell had made a successful local debut with Truly an Honour in a first-level "B" allowance race.

Schnell's other entrants here were Ramsey's Girl, fourth in a maiden $25,000 claimer, and Line of Departure, who finished seventh for $10,000 and was claimed.

His other charges are the unraced 2-year-old geldings Doo Wop Songster and Monida Pass.

Schnell, who started training in Alberta 30 years ago, actually was away from the racetrack for more than six years before returning in 2004.

"I was on my ranch in Alberta, raising cattle," said Schnell. "But what with the drought, and mad cow disease, I was working 10 times as hard as I ever had and was losing money.

"So, I decided to come back to the racetrack; I'd always made money there. And, I decided I wanted to try some different racetracks."

Schnell, who is sole owner of some of his runners and a partner with Kiki Courtelis in the others, started considering Woodbine earlier this season.

"I always wanted to try it here, and when I saw Woodbine was getting Polytrack I applied for some stalls," said Schnell. "I was trying to get in after Canterbury but I couldn't get in right away, so I went to Oklahoma and ran a couple there. Then I went to Keeneland, stayed there for the sale, and bought some yearlings."

Now, with a couple of wins under his belt, Schnell may reconsider his traveling plans for next season.

"I love it here," said Schnell. "The barn area is beautiful, and the track is top-notch. It's been a very good experience so far.

"I'd love to be able to get stalls in the spring, and come back with some good horses."

In the meantime, Schnell plans to winter his charges on the Courtelis farm in Micanopy, Fla.

Barracuda Boy steps up to stakes

Just Rushing, who was claimed last fall from Stronach Stable and trainer Nick Gonzalez, recorded his sixth straight victory when making his stakes debut here in last Sunday's Mt. Sassafras.

On Saturday, Gonzalez and Team Stronach will be looking to follow a similar blueprint with Barracuda Boy, one that didn't get away. He will be looking for his fifth consecutive win while making his first stakes appearance in the $150,000 Durham Cup.

Barracuda Boy, a 5-year-old gelding, was offered twice for $20,000 this spring, trouncing nonwinners-of-two and then nonwinners-of-three at 1 1/16 miles on the former main track.

Since then, Barracuda Boy has won his first two allowance conditions in impressive fashion on the inner track, also at 1 1/16 miles.

Gonzalez, a proven hand at the claiming game, was not particularly surprised that no one took the bait when Barracuda Boy was entered for $20,000.

"In those conditioned races, you either run nonwinners-of-two

or -three for $20,000 or nonwinners-of-two or -three for $40,000," said Gonzalez. "It's a pretty big gap."

Gonzalez also pointed out that Barracuda Boy's age and the infrequency of his appearances also were potential deterrents.

"He was a 5-year-old who had only run five times," said Gonzalez. "It raises the red flag.

"You've got to say, as a trainer, when you're looking at something like that, you ask yourself logical questions and you've got to be thinking there's got to be something that's not quite kosher."

Barracuda Boy, whose lone win prior to this season had come in a maiden special weight race at Fort Erie, bombed in a subsequent outing there last fall and wound up his campaign with a fourth-place finish in a first-level allowance at Tampa Bay Downs last December.

This season, as noted, has been a much different story.

"He was with me here in Fort Erie, until they switched over to Polytrack up there," said Gonzalez, whose wife and assistant, Martha Gonzalez, oversees the stable's division here at Woodbine. "I wanted to run him in the Durham Cup prep. I galloped him for a while over the Polytrack, and breezed him, and then the prep didn't go."

Barracuda Boy instead had to make do with a major workout here Oct. 1, in which he drilled six furlongs in 1:12.60.

"He's a fresh horse, and he's in great order, but he's taking a big step up from those two allowance wins he had," said Gonzalez. "My only concern is going a mile and an eighth, and he hasn't run in almost two months. But, I think it's an appropriate time to try him at this level, because he's doing great. At least you find out where you're at with him.

"He's really come a long way; he's really matured," he said. "It won't be the end of the world if he can't handle those horses."

Emma-Jayne Wilson, who rode Just Rushing, also will do the honors on Barracuda Boy.

Pellegrino, 7, will try the Poly

Adding an additional air of mystery to the Durham Cup is the presence of Pellegrino, a 7-year-old horse trained by Roger Attfield whose only start on a surface other than turf came almost five years ago in Argentina.

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained at this point," said Attfield, who has watched Pellegrino go unplaced here in four starts on turf since moving to Woodbine.

"He likes Polytrack, training-wise. It could open up a completely different avenue for him."

* The Valedictory Handicap, the traditional closing-day feature, has been moved to Dec. 10. The Valedictory, a 1 3/4-mile race for

3-year-olds and upward, was scheduled for Dec. 3, the original closing date for the meeting that was extended to make up for days lost during Polytrack construction.