06/15/2011 1:16PM

Woodbine to launch marathon starter allowance series on turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Distance racing on the turf always has been an aesthetic success here at Woodbine.

Now, Woodbine’s racing department will be looking to give both its horseplayers and horsemen a chance to enjoy turf routes in an additional light, with a new marathon starter allowance series.

Steve Lym, racing secretary and a director of racing for the Woodbine Entertainment Group, gives credit to his assistant, Sheryl McSwain, for the concept.

“We’re calling it the Lou Cavalaris Marathon Series,” said Lym, with a nod to the Hall of Fame trainer and former racing secretary who is long retired but still a close follower of the Woodbine scene.

“Lou’s always been a proponent of distance racing, and this is our tribute to him.”

The series is to begin July 1 with a $25,000 starter allowance at 1 1/4 miles carrying a purse of $51,400. It will continue Aug. 26 with a $32,000 starter allowance at 1 1/2 miles worth $54,700.

The Oct. 28 finale would be a $50,000 starter allowance at 1 3/4 miles on turf with $60,600 up for grabs.

“I want to start off cautiously the first year,” Lym said. “We’re starting out with purses higher than general starter allowance purses would be.

“If it catches fire, we might bump up the purses next year and make it into a true series with some bonus money.”

So far, the response on the backstretch has been favorable.

“Anything new, in the beginning, generates a lot of interest,” Lym said. “From what I’ve heard from horsemen, they like it, and some of them want to get horses for it. I actually had one horsemen say he’s going to have to run one of his better horses for a $50,000 tag, just to get him eligible for the last leg.”

And, Lym believes the series could even attract shippers, due to its unusual terms.

“I hope we’d generate interest from outside the province with the distance and purses we’re giving away,” he said.

In the meantime, Lym could follow the same concept with a Ladies’ Marathon series, beginning with a $20,000 starter allowance worth $51,400 in the book for July 1.

“I’ll try one and see where that leads us,” he said.

De Gannes targets weekend stakes

Trainer Greg De Gannes has contenders for both stakes races here Saturday, with Safraction entered in the Victoria and Jenny’s So Great in the Zadracarta.

The $150,000 Victoria is a five-furlong race for 2-year-olds, while the $100,000 Zadracarta is an overnight stakes for Ontario-foaled fillies and mares at seven furlongs on the turf.

Safraction, who was sired in Ontario, defeated restricted company when debuting over 4 1/2 furlongs at odds of almost 25-1 here May 22.

“I’ve always liked him,” said De Gannes, who purchased Safraction at the local select yearling sale for $17,000.

“The reason I bought him is that I thought he was a dead ringer for his older [half-] brother, Saratoga Prince. He was a very talented horse.”

Following the purchase, De Gannes wasted little time in sending Safraction to Florida.

“I sent him down at the end of September, and he’s been training since then,” said De Gannes, who trains Safraction for owner Andrew Fredericks. “He’s pretty uncomplicated. He hasn’t had a shin, hasn’t had a pimple on him, hasn’t missed a day of training

“He’s the kind of 2-year-old you love to have in the barn; you don’t even know he’s there.”

Safraction will be moving into open company for the Victoria and tuned up with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.40 here last Sunday under returning rider Justin Stein.

“He breezed brilliantly,” De Gannes said. “He’s doing well.”

Jenny’s So Great blossomed on the turf last year and became a stakes winner in the Carotene, a 1 1/8-mile race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies, here last fall.

Racing for owners Bill and Vicki Poston, Jenny’s So Great finished second when making her 2011 bow over 6 1/2 furlongs of Polytrack here May 20 in a race that had been scheduled for the turf course.

“She ran a very creditable race first time out,” De Gannes said. “The horse that beat her was winter-raced and came back to finish third in the Nassau.”

Valli With a Vow, trained by Josie Carroll, had been racing at Fair Grounds, and her effort here in the Grade 2 Nassau, a one-mile turf race, came in some difficult open company.

“My filly was nominated to the Nassau, but it was a bit quick back,” De Gannes said. “We’ll try to stick to Ontario-foaled races, and every once in a while try to venture outside to deeper waters.”

Jenny’s So Great also was being ridden by Jesse Campbell for the first time when competing under second-level allowance terms in her opener.

“Jesse seems to have the hang of how to ride her," said De Gannes, who used six different jockeys on Jenny’s So Great last year. “She needs a particular type of ride. You can’t show her daylight until the last minute.”

Check Your Soul works toward Plate

Check Your Soul, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial in his last start June 5, breezed five furlongs on the main track in 1:00.40 here Wednesday morning.

Regular rider Patrick Husbands was aboard for the drill, in which Check Your Soul was clocked in 36.60 seconds for his first six furlongs and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.80.

“It was a wonderful breeze,” Attfield said. “I’ll do a little bit with him next Wednesday, and we should be all set.”

Jockey assignments are beginning to firm up for the $1 million Queen’s Plate, the 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds that will be run June 26.

Queen’splatekitten, expected to vie for favoritism with Check Your Soul off his impressive win in the 1 1/16-mile Marine here May 21, was ridden by Eurico Rosa da Silva that day but will have John Velazquez in the irons for the Queen’s Plate.

Todd Pletcher trains Queen’splatekitten, who breezed four furlongs in 48 seconds at Belmont on Monday.

Da Silva, who piloted Bowman’s Causeway to a second-place finish in the Plate Trial, will be looking for his third consecutive Queen’s Plate winner aboard that Chad Brown-trained colt.

Strike Oil, third in the Plate Trial for trainer Mark Casse, will be ridden by Willie Martinez.

The Plate Trial was the fifth start of the season for Strike Oil, who recorded his first career win in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity here last fall.