09/30/2011 11:50AM

Woodbine: Longer distance, softer turf may suit Reconnect in Carotene Stakes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Reconnect came from the clouds at odds of 70-1 under rider Omar Moreno to give trainer Ashlee Brnjas her first stakes victory here in the Sept. 10 La Prevoyante.

On Sunday, Brnjas will be hoping that lightning can strike twice when she sends out Reconnect, who is a daughter of Niigon, for the $150,000 Carotene Stakes.

The Carotene is scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the grass and is restricted to Ontario foals, a step up from the Ontario-sired conditions of the La Prevoyante, which was run over one mile on the same surface.

With plenty of recent rain and more in the forecast, the Carotene figures to be contested on a less-than-firm turf course.

Brnjas, daughter of Reconnected’s owner and breeder John Brnjas, believes that the longer distance and the possibility of slower going could work in her charge’s favor.

“The Niigons are stayers,” Brnjas said. “She just got up to win going a mile. She should sit off the pace and just come running.”

Moreno, who was riding Reconnect for the first time since guiding her to her maiden victory over 1 1/16 miles of Polytrack four starts earlier, retains the mount for the Carotene.

“After her last win, we sent her home for a few days of R and R,” Brnjas said.

“Omar worked her last Monday. She had a nice, relaxed breeze, and we paddock-schooled her on Thursday. She’s doing great.”

The probable favorite for the Carotene is Indian Pond, a homebred daughter of Speightstown who races for Eugene Melnyk and is trained by Mark Casse.

Indian Pond began her current campaign with back-to-back turf wins in a six-furlong maiden race and a 6 1/2-furlong first-level allowance, competing in open company on each occasion with Patrick Husbands in the irons.

In her most recent outing, Indian Pond raced at Saratoga in the $77,500 Riskaverse, an open overnight turf stakes over one mile in which she finished eighth but was beaten just six lengths.

“We had the Carotene in mind even before Saratoga,” Casse said. “There wasn’t anything here for straight 3-year-olds.”

Casse acknowledges that the 1 1/8-mile distance is a question mark for Indian Pond.

“Most Speightstowns don’t want to run this far,” he said. “But occasionally we come across one who can, and I think she may be one of those. “When she won going shorter, Patrick always had to hustle her the whole way.

“I’m a little more worried about the soft turf.”

L’Avenue, a good third in the La Prevoyante, and Lucky Be Me, who finished ninth there but was beaten just 4 1/2 lengths, also are returning for the Carotene.

Lucky Be Me, trained by Bill Tharrenos, was trying turf for the first time in the Carotene and coming off a good second-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Eternal Search for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies.

Eye of the Leopard makes his return

Eye of the Leopard, Canada’s champion 3-year-old after winning the Plate Trial and Queen’s Plate in 2009, will be making his first start of the season in Sunday’s 1 1/8-mile Durham Cup.

Trained by Mark Frostad, Eye of the Leopard last saw action when second here in the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory on Dec. 5.

“He injured himself over the winter,” said Frostad, who trains Eye of the Leopard for Sam-Son Farm. “I just got him back about six weeks ago.”

While Frostad acknowledges that the $150,000 Durham Cup will be a difficult spot, he could see no other option.

“I have to get a race into him,” Frostad said.

33 noms for Canadian International

The nominees for the Canadian International, E.P. Taylor Stakes, and Nearctic Stakes were released Thursday.

And while there an impressive array of names on the lists for the three turf stakes here Oct. 16, the actual composition of the fields undoubtedly will undergo several mutations before the entries are taken three days out.

The Canadian International, a 1 1/2-mile race for 3-year-olds and up that offers Grade 1 status and a purse of $1.5 million, attracted 33 nominees.

The E.P. Taylor, a 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares that also is a Grade 1 and is worth $1 million, also checked in with 33 nominations.

The Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up, was the most popular on the nominations front with a total of 36.

The Canadian International, E.P. Taylor, and Nearctic all are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In series.

Gypsy Ring a late add to Nearctic

The deadline for nominations to the Nearctic was midnight Wednesday, and Gypsy Ring’s name had not been submitted when the evening card here started.

But after Gypsy Ring crossed the wire in front to become as stakes winner in the Overskate about 9:45 p.m., that situation was quickly rectified.

“I’m not sure if he’s going to run there,” said Paul Buttigieg, who is the owner, trainer, and breeder of the 5-year-old Gypsy Ring. “We’ll see how it’s coming up.”

Buttigieg had nominated Gypsy Ring to the $1 million Woodbine Mile following his close fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Play the King, but elected to await the $125,000 Overskate, which was a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up.

And Buttigieg has another option this time in the form of the $100,000 Mt. Sassafras, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and up here Oct. 12, which is an overnight race and would require a field of at least five to be carded.

In the meantime, Buttigieg will enjoy the Overskate victory after watching Gypsy Ring come close in several other stakes.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Buttigieg said. “He was so sharp.

“It’s the first time I ever had to train a horse on the morning of a race. It was either work him or he’d be kicking in his stall all morning and maybe hurt himself.”

Tu Endie Wei works for Alcibiades

Tu Endie Wei and Society’s Chairman both breezed five furlongs here Friday morning in preparation for upcoming Grade 1 engagements at Keeneland.

Regular rider Jim McAleney was aboard Tu Endie Wei, who was timed in 1:03.

“It was an extremely tough track,” said trainer Reade Baker, who plans to gallop Tu Endie Wei on Sunday and then put her on a van for Lexington and Friday’s $400,000 Alcibiades, a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-old fillies

Exercise rider Suzanne Lorimer was aboard Society’s Chairman, who was clocked in 59.60 seconds and is scheduled to ship out Wednesday for next Saturday’s $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile for 3-year-olds and up.

“Off that work, he’s definitely going,” trainer Roger Attfield said.

Both the Alcibiades and the Shadwell Turf Mile are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In series.

◗ Woodbine will be offering simulcast wagering ontrack and through HorsePlayer Interactive services on Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Prix de l’Opera from Longchamp. The Arc is scheduled to go off at 10:15 a.m., and the Prix de l’Opera at 11:45 a.m.