05/16/2013 11:56AM

Woodbine: Moonlit Beauty looks to fire fresh in Ballade

Michael Burns
Moonlit Beauty, the winner of the Classy 'N Smart Stakes last September, drew the far-outside No. 12 post for Saturday's Ballade Stakes.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Moonlit Beauty, winner of four stakes and almost $600,000, is by far the most accomplished member of the 12-horse field of Ontario-sired fillies and mares for Saturday’s $125,000 Ballade Stakes.

But can Moonlit Beauty shine under the circumstances, making her first start of the season at a six-furlong distance that isn’t her preferred trip?

“She does run better fresh, but normally, her first race each year hasn’t been her best,” said John LeBlanc, who trains Moonlit Beauty for owner and breeder Bill Gierkink and rides her in the mornings. “I’ve changed her training a little bit, working her stronger. She has natural speed, and I’ve never really pushed her much. I’ve pulled the trigger a little bit this year, because six furlongs is going to be the big question mark. It hasn’t been her best distance.”

Eurico Rosa da Silva, aboard for her three victories last year including the 1 1/16-mile Victoriana on turf and the 1 1/16-mile Classy ’n Smart on the main track, retains the mount on Moonlit Beauty, who is the senior member of the Ballade lineup.

“You’d never know she was 7, the way she’s been doing everything,” said LeBlanc, who was pleased that Moonlit Beauty drew the outside post.

The competition runs deep in the Ballade, and one definite threat is Bear’s Gem, a 4-year-old trained by Reade Baker. She also will be making her first start of the season, but rounded out her last campaign with four straight victories in main-track sprints.

Baker, who trains Bear’s Gem for the Bear Stables of Danny Dion, believes a change in equipment led to the filly’s turnaround after she was around the money but failed to find the range in her first five outings.

“We’d always had trouble with her wanting to bear out,” Baker said. “We put extension blinkers on her, and that seemed to make the difference.”

Bear’s Gem, who wintered in Ontario at Curraghmore Farm and has been here since the backstretch opened in early March, will be ridden by Patrick Husbands.

“She’s ready to go,” said Baker, who sent out Bear’s Gem to drill five furlongs in 1:00.40 here last Saturday and will watch the filly start from post 3.

Also meriting respect is Dance to the Moon, even though she last tasted victory 13 starts back here in 2011.

Dance to the Moon, a 6-year-old owned by Scott Abbott and trained by Mike Doyle, finished second when making her 2013 debut for the $60,000 claiming tag in a second-level optional claimer here April 20. The winner, Part the Seas, is a promising stakes-placed filly who was the odds-on choice.

Slade Callaghan, who has ridden Dance to the Moon in all but the first of her 23 career starts, gets the call, and the pair will have to overcome post 1.

Other highlights of Saturday’s card include the first scheduled turf races of the meeting, with two one-mile races carded for the E.P. Taylor course.