08/16/2012 1:34PM

Woodbine: Moonlit Beauty back with Ontario-sired company for Victoriana

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Michael Burns
Moonlit Beauty wins the 2011 Belle Geste, one of her two turf stakes wins.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Moonlit Beauty faltered when facing some formidable fillies and mares in the Grade 3 Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race that was won by the streaking Marketing Mix.

On Saturday, Moonlit Beauty returns to the company of Ontario-sired turf females and cuts back to 1 1/16 miles when she faces 10 rivals in the Victoriana Stakes.

“Last time, I really felt we had a great chance,” said John LeBlanc, who trains the 6-year-old Moonlit Beauty for owner/breeder Bill Gierkink. “She got out to too quick of a pace at the beginning of the race to go a mile and a sixteenth.”

Moonlit Beauty led into the stretch and wound up sixth, beaten eight lengths. LeBlanc said she was bothered by another horse in that race. “Her rider almost had to stand up on her,” said LeBlanc. “When that happened she faded real hard. She lost her momentum.”

Moonlit Beauty has won two turf stakes, the 2010 Zadracarta and the 2011 Belle Geste, both for Ontario-sired fillies and mares over seven furlongs.

Prior to this year’s Zadracarta, in which Moonlit Beauty was bothered late and finished fourth, LeBlanc had entered the mare for the $60,000 optional claiming price in a second-level allowance race here May 27. Traveling 1 1/16 miles on the turf that day, Moonlit Beauty stalked the pace before taking charge and scoring by a half-length under Eurico Rosa Da Silva, who will be returning to the saddle following a two-race hiatus.

“I’d always felt she would go farther, nursing her speed,” said LeBlanc. “This will be her first start in six weeks – there was no Victoriana prep and there was nothing else for her. But she’s trained well and worked well and won off a layoff before.”

Reconnect, a homebred 4-year-old trained by Ashlee Brnjas, is the only other stakes winner in the Victoriana field.

Racing for the Colebrook Farm of John Brnjas, Reconnect connected at 70-1 when trying turf for the first time in last September’s one-mile La Prevoyante for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies. Reconnect, who wintered in Florida, finished seventh when racing under the allowance condition in the May 27 race won by Moonlit Beauty.

“She was sick,” said Ashlee Brnjas. “She shouldn’t have run there. I gave her some time, ran her back, and she made a big move up the rail to win.”

Reconnect landed her open second-level allowance condition that day while scoring by 1 1/4 lengths over 1 1/16 miles of Polytrack. Jesse Campbell retains the mount.

Niigon’s Princess, stepping up in search of her third straight win, all for trainer Ian Black, looms a front-running threat under jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson.

Posh Sox, who is in good form but is unproven beyond seven furlongs, also could make her presence felt for jockey Luis Contreras and trainer Nick Gonzalez.

Evil Kitten gets another shot on turf

Martha Gonzalez, who is Nick’s wife and assistant and manages the day-to-day operation at Woodbine, sent out the 3-year-old fillies Awesome Fire and Evil Kitten to breeze five furlongs on the main track here Thursday morning, working in company with Sour Grapes.

Evil Kitten, under exercise rider Tyrone Harding, and Awesome Fire, with Michelle Love in the irons, both were clocked in 1:00.60.

Sour Grapes, also timed in 1:00.60, is an Ontario-sired 3-year-old filly who is owned by Love and is coming off a restricted second-level allowance win for trainer Wray Lawrence.

Next Saturday’s Grade 3 $150,000 Ontario Colleen, an open one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, is the target of Evil Kitten, who is coming off a fourth in the open seven-furlong Duchess Stakes here July 28. Evil Kitten has raced once on turf, finishing well back in 11th in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes over one mile here last September.

“She’s a totally different horse this year,” said Gonzalez. “I’m willing to take another shot. I can’t have the only Kitten’s Joy who doesn’t move up on turf.”

Awesome Fire is headed for the Algoma, the $125,000 yearling sales stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the main track here Sept. 3.

Winner of the Wonder Where, a 1 1/4-mile turf stakes for Canadian-bred fillies, in her latest, Awesome Fire went through the ring at the local 2010 select sale but failed to meet her $7,000 reserve.

Dene Court will skip Ontario Colleen

Dene Court, who put together back-to-back turf stakes wins here in the 6 1/2-furlong Alywow and one-mile Ontario Damsel but then weakened to finish last of nine in the Wonder Where, was nominated to the Ontario Colleen but will not be participating.

“She’s just taking it easy,” said trainer Mark Casse. “That last race was trying for her.”

Casse still has three candidates for the Ontario Colleen in Spirited Miss, Sky Dreamer, and Sky High Lady.

Spirited Miss is perfect in two starts this year, with her latest being the Duchess, while Sky Dreamer is coming off a solid second in the Grade 3 Arlington Oaks over 1 1/16 miles of Polytrack.

Sky High Lady, sixth in the Duchess after winning her first allowance condition at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 here Thursday morning.

Prospective preps for Smarty Jones

Prospective, who worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.60 seconds for Casse here Thursday, is aiming for the Grade 3 Smarty Jones, a $350,000 stakes for 3-year-olds over a mile and 70 yards at Parx Racing on Sept. 3.

Last of eight when traveling 1 1/8 miles in the slop in Saratoga’s Jim Dandy last time out, Prospective has won Thistledown’s Grade 3 Ohio Derby, Woodbine’s listed Victoria Park, and the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and listed Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs from eight starts this season.

Strait of Dover recuperating on farm

Strait of Dover, who won the Queen’s Plate but then was sidelined by a suspensory injury while preparing for the Breeders’, shipped out from Woodbine early Thursday afternoon.

Danny Vella, who trains Strait of Dover for owners Wally and Terry Leong, said Strait of Dover will be staying at One More Time Racing Stables, the Niagara-area farm owned by his fellow Woodbine trainer Don MacRae.

“He had a stem-cell injection,” said Vella. “They’ll scan the area in three months, and re-scan it in six months. Hopefully everything will be perfect by then.”

Strait of Dover, bred in British Columbia by his owners, was perfect in three starts this year and won the 1 1/16-mile Marine in his start prior to the Queen’s Plate.