08/23/2011 12:33PM

Woodbine: Moonlit Beauty caps perfect weekend for LeBlanc


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Two overnight stakes for fillies and mares were run here last weekend, and the winners hailed from decidedly different quarters.

Moonlit Beauty, who showed the way in Sunday’s seven-furlong Belle Geste, is the one-horse stable of Bill Gierkink, who also is the breeder of the 5-year-old and was enjoying his second career stakes victory. Trainer John LeBlanc was winning the fourth stakes of his career.

Stars to Shine, who prevailed in last Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Belle Mahone, is trained by Mark Frostad, who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame last week and now has won 149 stakes in his career.

Moonlit Beauty had won last year’s Zadracarta Stakes over seven furlongs of turf in front-running fashion.

While she had loomed as the lone speed in this year’s Zadracarta, Moonlit Beauty was bumped at the start and was unable to reach serious contention en route to a 10th-place finish. She emerged from the race somewhat the worse for wear.

“She didn’t get the traffic leaving the gate this time – she had a clean break,” said LeBlanc, who was bringing Moonlit Beauty into the Belle Geste off a two-month layoff.

“The rest was Eurico. He was able to put her on the engine, comfortably, and control the race.”

Moonlit Beauty, with Eurico Rosa da Silva in the irons for the first time, began from the outside in the Belle Geste’s field of six and was never seriously threatened en route to a 2 1/2-length victory.

But while the running of the Belle Geste may have been relatively uneventful, LeBlanc had to do some quick thinking earlier Sunday afternoon after a torrential rainstorm swept over Woodbine and the condition of the turf was downgraded from firm to good.

“I put front bandages on her; I’d never done that in a race before,” LeBlanc said.

“But she’d wrenched an ankle in her last race. If the turf had been firm, I wouldn’t have been concerned, but when the downpour came it could have been a little slippery and spotty.

“As it turned out, I think it just had a little cut to it.”

Moonlit Beauty, who now has won 6 of 23 starts and $344,311, could make her next start in the $100,000 River Memories, an overnight stakes for fillies and mares over one mile of turf here Oct. 29.

“Obviously, I can give her a lay-up, and she’ll come back strong,” said LeBlanc, who was competing a perfect weekend after sending out Peter’s Charisma to score at 26-1 in a first-level allowance over 1 1/4 miles of turf here Saturday.

Forest Uproar, a 5-year-old homebred who races for Sam-Son Farm and is trained by Frostad, was the immediate victim of Moonlit Beauty in the Belle Geste as she finished second as the 7-10 favorite.

That loss came almost exactly 24 hours after Stars to Shine had prevailed by 3 3/4 lengths under regular rider Patrick Husbands in the $100,000 Belle Mahone.

“I thought it was a very impressive race,” said Frostad, who trains the 4-year-old Stars to Shine for a group of five known as The Grange House Partnership.

“She ran pretty fast, too.”

Stars to Shine’s clocking of 1:43.77 was indeed commendable and yielded a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

And the Belle Mahone actually was her first planned career venture on Polytrack as her previous start on the surface was in a 1 1/8-mile first-level allowance here last October that originally was scheduled for turf.

“I still think she’s a turf filly, but it’s nice to know we have other options,” Frostad said.

Stars to Shine had finished first in three of her six outings on the grass, although she was disqualified and placed third in her debut last July and was coming off a troubled fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly over 1 1/8 miles here July 10.

Stars to Shine is scheduled to return to the turf for the Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian, a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares on Woodbine Mile Day, Sept. 18.

Stars to Shine could be part of a triple-barreled Frostad threat there, along with Forest Uproar and Magic Broomstick, another Sam-Son Farm runner who had been entered in an allowance prep for the Canadian that was offered twice but failed to fill and was consigned to oblivion.

Inglorious relaxing at the Spa

Inglorious, who finished last of six under regular rider Luis Contreras in last Saturday’s Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga, was still on the grounds there as of Tuesday morning.

“We’re giving her a few days to relax,” said Josie Carroll, who trains Inglorious for the Donver Stable of Vern and Donna Dubinsky.

“She didn’t take to the surface at all, and she came back with her soft palate displaced. We think she cut off her air. She got fatigued and stressed when she couldn’t handle the surface.”

Carroll said there is no specific plan in place for Inglorious.

“She’ll stay on track,” Carroll said. “She came out of the race okay, and that’s the main thing.”

Strong group for Play the King

Sunday’s seven-furlong Play the King Stakes, which is positioned as the major local prep for the Woodbine Mile, is expected to attract a good-sized field that should include all of the top local turf sprinters and milers.

Those based here and eyeing the Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King include Court of the Realm, Fatal Bullet, Grand Adventure, Gypsy Ring, Jungle Wave, Riding the River, Signature Red, and Stormy Lord.

Havelock, who is based at Churchill Downs with trainer Darrin Miller, was the lone confirmed shipper as of Tuesday morning.

A 4-year-old Maryland-bred gelding, Havelock became a stakes winner last time out in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap over 5 1/2 furlongs of turf.