08/02/2013 12:33PM

Woodbine: Much-improved Acting Naughty seeks third stakes win of meet in Etobicoke

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Michael Burns
Acting Naughty, winning the Whimsical Stakes, may need only a clean break to earn her third stakes win of the meet in Sunday's Etobicoke.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Back in April, one would have been hard-pressed to predict that Acting Naughty would be entering the first weekend in August with a chance of becoming the first horse to win three stakes at the Woodbine meeting.

But, that is exactly where Acting Naughty stands heading into Sunday’s $100,000 Etobicoke, a six-furlong overnight stakes for fillies and mares which is new on this year’s schedule.

“She’ll be tough, as long as there’s pace to run at,” said Don MacRae, who conditions Acting Naughty for owner John Hillier. “Breaking from the gate is always a concern, though.”

Acting Naughty, a 4-year-old filly who was claimed for $40,000 in September 2011, has made three starts this year, all in sprint stakes for fillies and mares.

After becoming a stakes winner when making her seasonal bow in the Grade 3 Whimsical at six furlongs, Acting Naughty reared at the start from her No. 1 post and wound up fifth in the Grade 3 Hendrie at 6 1/2 furlongs.

In her last outing, which came in the seven-furlong Sweet Briar Too on July 6, Acting Naughty again was off a step slowly but worked her way to the outside under regular rider Tyler Pizarro en route to prevailing by a nose in a three-horse photo.

“We’ve kind of kept her on the same program,” said MacRae. “She only had a half-mile breeze last Sunday, but I let her come home real quick. I tried to put a little bit of speed into her, because she’s cutting back to six furlongs.”

Acting Naughty will begin from post 4 and will have an interesting new shooter to contend with in Strike the Moon, who is invading from Maryland for trainer Michael Trombetta.

“She’s been running good on the synthetic a little bit this year, and the choices were a little limited to what was out there,” said Trombetta, who won last fall’s Grade 1 Nearctic here with Next Question. “She’s run good going 5 1/2 up to a mile. She’s been in the neighborhood of running really well. Unfortunately, the 5 1/2 [races] were a little short for her. Three-quarters, I think she can do fine.”

Strike the Moon, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old, is winless in six starts on synthetic surfaces, four at Presque Isle Downs and two at Keeneland.

Her best efforts have come on Keeneland’s Polytrack, where she finished second behind subsequent champion female sprinter Groupie Doll in last fall’s Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes and fifth in the previous year’s Grade 2 Raven Run, beaten just three-quarters of a length.

Leading rider Luis Contreras picks up the mount on Strike the Moon, who will begin from post 2.

Youcan’tcatchme will be making her seasonal bow in the Etobicoke but won first crack out last year after finishing second in her career debut in 2011.

Trained by Sam DiPasquale, Youcan’tcatchme missed by just a nose as the runner-up in last fall’s Grade 3 Ontario Fashion at six furlongs and has been working well with an eye toward this spot.

Rounding out the field are Evil Kitten, Dance to the Moon, Sweet Starlet, and Eastern Atlantic, who was supplemented at a cost of $2,000.

Beware of Carmelita in Wonder Where

Carmelita, a game winner of her last start, would appear to have upset possibilities in Sunday’s $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes, the 1 1/4-mile turf feature for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Owned by Frank Stronach and trained by Danny Vellla, Carmelita was unraced at 2.

“She came in to me last fall,” said Vella. “Her breeding said she was going to improve with age.

“She was with me all winter in Florida and she kept getting better and better.”

Carmelita debuted here May 12, finishing an even fifth over seven furlongs of Polytrack.

“I ran her on the main track just to get a race into her,” said Vella. “In her second start, on the turf, she ran a decent race.”

Carmelita finished fourth, beaten a length, in that 1 1/16-mile race here June 8, and that effort set her up for her first win five weeks later.

Traveling 1 1/8 miles on the E.P. Taylor course, Carmelita rallied through the stretch and overcame some traffic trouble to score by a neck.

“The light bulb went on,” said Vella. “She was in more trouble than any horse has to be in, and she still won.

“I think the [Wonder Where] distance will be in her favor.”

Courtville seeks third straight win

Courtville began his 4-year-old campaign on a down note, finishing out of the money when making his first two starts under second-level allowance terms.

But Courtville is riding high now and will be looking for his third consecutive victory on Monday in the 6 1/2-furlong Shepperton Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

“He’s in tip-top shape,” said Laurie Silvera, who owns and trains Courtvile. “Six and a half furlongs is not quite what he wants, but I’m hoping his current good form will see him through.

“He’s just doing extremely well; that’s the bottom line. Looking at him physically, he’s bulked up. It looks like he’s made tremendous progress.”

Courtville was running with a claiming price for the first time when he dropped to the $40,000 level and won a seven-furlong turf race here June 21.

“Off his races prior to that I figured I’d get away with it, and I did,” said Silvera, who disputes the notion that the exercise could have been a confidence-builder for Courtville. “That would be assuming that horses can reason. Horses cannot reason; they are creatures of habit.”

Silvera, who watched Courtville defeat a solid field of allowance horses when traveling 1 1/16 miles in his last start, is hoping to see her gelding stick to the winning habit on Monday.

Eternal Search a step up for Seeking Toussaud

Seeking Toussaud, who showed promise as a 2-year-old when trained last year by Danny Vella, will be looking to step up in Monday’s supporting feature, the $125,000 Eternal Search for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies.

“I got her this spring,” said Josie Carroll, who conditions Seeking Toussaud for owner Richard Balfour. “I like her.”

Seeking Toussaud has raced once for her new barn, making a strong bid into the stretch but then flattening out to be beaten 7 1/4 lengths as the third-place finisher in a restricted first-level allowance at seven furlongs.

“I think it was a good race,” said Carroll. “She got a little tired.”

Up With the Birds tops Breeders’ nominees

Up With the Birds, runner-up in the Queen’s Plate, heads a list of just 11 horses nominated to the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, the 1 1/2-mile turf race that is the final leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Up With the Birds breezed five furlongs here Friday morning in 1.00.80, his second workout since the July 7 Queen’s Plate.

River Seven, runner-up in the Prince of Wales, also is nominated to the Breeders’ but a Nick Gonzalez-trained stablemate, Queen’s Plate winner Midnight Aria, remains hors de combat.

Dynamic Sky, third in the Queen’s Plate but scratched from the Prince of Wales due to a foot problem, and his Mark Casse-trained stablemate Jagger M, who ended fourth in the Fort Erie showpiece last Tuesday, are on the Breeders’ list.

Global Express, an impressive maiden winner going long on the turf for Roger Attfield last time out, and Pyrite Mountain, who won the Wando Stakes for trainer Mark Frostad, are other notable nominees.