05/29/2013 2:04PM

Woodbine notes: Up With the Birds on path to Queen's Plate

Michael Burns
Up With the Birds, the winner of the Marine Stakes on Sunday at Woodbine, is targeting the July 7 Queen's Plate.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Up With the Birds remains on a straight course for the July 7 Queen’s Plate after winning the $163,681 Marine Stakes in impressive fashion here last Sunday.

“He did everything right, had a good trip, and seems to have come out of the race in good order,” said Malcolm Pierce, who trains the homebred for Sam-Son Farm. “We’re where we want to be with him right now. We’ll just have to hope he stays healthy for six weeks.”

The $1 million Queen’s Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, has been the destination for Up With the Birds since he won the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity here Nov. 10. In his next two appearances, both south of the border and on turf, Up With the Birds won the Black Gold over about 7 1/2 furlongs at Fair Grounds and finished second in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland.

Back on Polytrack for the Marine and reunited with jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva, Up With the Birds left no doubt that he’ll be one of the horses to beat in the Queen’s Plate after rallying from last place in the field of five to score by a going-away 4 3/4 lengths.

“Hopefully, he’s improving, and he’ll improve a notch more next time,” Pierce said. “Eurico doesn’t think the mile and a quarter will be a problem.”

Pierce and Sam-Son could have a second Queen’s Plate candidate in His Race to Win, who registered his first victory when scoring by 5 1/2 lengths under da Silva in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race here May 12.

“We’re probably going to give him a shot at the Plate Trial and find out if he belongs there,” said Pierce, referring to the 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here June 9, the final major local stepping-stone to the Queen’s Plate. “Timing-wise, it’s probably the best thing for him. It will be four weeks since his last start and four weeks to the Plate.”

His Race to Win was making his seventh career start when graduating but already was stakes-placed, having finished third in last year’s Coronation Futurity.

“He improved a lot last time – just went on about his business,” Pierce said.

Something Extra targets Highlander

Something Extra recorded his first stakes win here last spring in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup, leading throughout the seven-furlong turf race to score by 2 1/2 lengths. Last Sunday, Something Extra duplicated that success under da Silva, reporting home three-quarters of a length best for trainer Gail Cox.

“He ran faster and carried more weight,” said Cox, who also owns the 5-year-old gelding in partnership with John Menary. “He’s consistent. He runs so well on Polytrack, but I think he likes the turf better.”

Something Extra became a stakes winner on the main track in the seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras here Oct. 27 in his first start since last May’s Connaught Cup.

“He fractured a splint bone in the” Connaught Cup,” said Cox, who had watched Something Extra wind up his local campaign with a third-place finish in the six-furlong Kennedy Road Stakes in November and then ship down to her regular offseason base at Payson Park. “That’s why I ran him over the winter, because he missed so much time here.”

Something Extra raced twice this year before returning to Woodbine, finishing second in both the five-furlong Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint and the Grade 3 Shakertown over 5 1/2 furlongs of grass at Keeneland.

Now, the Grade 2, $200,000 Highlander, a six-furlong turf sprint on Queen’s Plate Day, July 7, is his next target.

“Six weeks should be perfect,” Cox said. “He runs really hard. I don’t run him a lot closer than that.”

Solid Appeal eyes Dance Smartly

Solid Appeal, conditioned by Reade Baker, became a stakes winner here last Saturday by capturing the Grade 2, $206,612 Nassau for fillies and mares over one mile on turf.

Bred in Kentucky and owned by Jim and Susan Hill, the 4-year-old Solid Appeal came into the Nassau off an impressive second-level allowance victory in a 1 1/16-mile race at Keeneland that had come off the turf.

Baker, however, believes Solid Appeal’s first major sign of improvement came Nov. 17, when she finished a solid fourth in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere over 1 1/16 miles on grass at Churchill Downs.

“She was starting to come around, but I never thought she was of that quality until that race,” Baker said. “When that last race came off the turf, I was pointing her to the Nassau, so I decided to let her run.”

Solid Appeal’s next target will be the Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares here July 7 that offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $200,000.

“The timing’s perfect,” Baker said. “She still needs to put on some weight, but I haven’t found any reason to think she has any restrictions as to distance. She settles well.”

I’m a Kittyhawk skipping Oaks

Trainer Franz Crean could have carried on with I’m a Kittyhawk after the homebred finished an encouraging second in her career debut here as a 2-year-old Aug. 17. But the 62-year-old Crean, who also owns I’m a Kittyhawk in partnership with Jonathan, Martin, Nicholas, and Victoria Earle, elected to look at the bigger picture and give her a break. His patience paid off here last Saturday with a victory in the $125,000 Lady Angela Stakes.

“She wasn’t lame; she just wasn’t comfortable,” said Crean, who has been training for the Earle family for 23 years. “I told them I wanted to send the filly home, that if we tried to go on, we might do some damage.”

I’m a Kittyhawk, after a lengthy break at the Earle farm near Uxbridge, Ontario, returned to Woodbine in March.

“She was right on her game as soon as she came in,” said Crean, who has seven horses here. “The first time we breezed her, I knew we’d done the right thing.”

I’m a Kittyhawk, who is by Tomahawk and is the first foal out of Martin and Victoria Earle’s stakes-placed I’m a Cheetah, has more than held up her end of the bargain. After returning to action with a front-running maiden victory under rider David Moran on May 5, I’m a Kittyhawk settled just off the pace in the seven-furlong Lady Angela before rallying to score by a half-length in the race for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies.

“She’s a very competitive filly,” Crean said. “She’s like that in the mornings, too.”

Crean, whose last stakes win had come with Sweet Summit here in the 1993 Fanfreluche, did not keep I’m a Kittyhawk eligible for the Woodbine Oaks and said there is “no temptation” to supplement her to that June 9 feature for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

“She’s eligible for non-winners-of-three, and I’ll possibly run her on turf,” he said. “We’ve agreed all along that she’ll go two turns.”

◗ Entries will be taken Friday for next week’s first Wednesday card of the meeting. That draw schedule will be followed except for weeks prior to a holiday Monday. Entries for those Monday programs will be taken Fridays, and the following Wednesdays will be dark.