08/19/2013 12:23PM

Woodbine notes: Up With the Birds unlikely to return in Ontario Derby, Northern Dancer

Michael Burns
Up With the Birds, who won the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Stakes on Sunday, likely will skip the Ontario Derby and Northern Dancer on Sept. 15 to get a longer break between races.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Up With the Birds was up to the task here Sunday, stretching out to 1 1/2 miles on turf and coming home a convincing winner of the $500,800 Breeders’ Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Owned and bred by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Malcolm Pierce, Up With the Birds had finished a closing second to upsetter Midnight Aria in the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate on July 7, then bypassed the second race in the series, the Prince of Wales over 1 3/16 miles on dirt at Fort Erie on July 30, with an eye toward the Breeders’ Stakes.

“He was on his toes,” said Pierce, who watched Up With the Birds score by 2 3/4 lengths in the Breeders’ under regular rider Eurico Rosa Da Silva. “He was well rested, but he was plenty fit. He might not get the mile and a half in open company here or in the United States, but here with Canadian-breds, he did it very well.”

Up With the Birds has banked $870,641, with Polytrack stakes wins in Woodbine’s 1 1/16-mile Marine and 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity and a score on soft turf over about 7 1/2 furlongs in the Black Gold at Fair Grounds preceding his biggest career win in the Breeders’ Stakes.

“I think he’s equally adept on Poly or turf,” said Pierce, noting that he had been impressed when Up With the Birds finished second, beaten a neck, when meeting some of the top turf 3-year-olds in North America in Keeneland’s Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Transylvania Stakes in April.

The Grade 3, $150,000 Ontario Derby, an open, 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, and the Grade 1, $500,000 Northern Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up, both will be run here Sept. 15. But the current philosophy of Pierce and Sam-Son principals Rick Balaz and Mark Samuel would not support such a relatively quick return to action, so out-of-town options will be under serious consideration.

“It might have looked like he won it pretty easily, but the Breeders’ was a tough race for him, no matter what anybody might think,” Pierce said.

River Seven, trying turf for the first time in the Breeders’ Stakes, finished a solid second for trainer Nick Gonzalez and owners Carlo and Lou Tucci. The gelding was the only horse to run in all three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown this year, finishing a well-beaten 10th in the Queen’s Plate before rebounding to be the runner-up to the odds-on Uncaptured in the Prince of Wales.

Despite having watched River Seven get off to a poor start Sunday, Gonzalez had only positive thoughts following the Breeders’ Stakes.

“I think the best horse won,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just happy he liked the turf and handled the distance.”

River Seven will be nominated to the Ontario Derby.

“He has lots of options,” said Gonzalez, adding that the four-time stakes-placed earner of $414,820 remains eligible for a second-level allowance race, with his only victory having come in the Grade 3 Grey Stakes here last October.

Forte Dei Marmi shows versatility

Da Silva also was in the irons when Forte Dei Marmi, a 7-year-old gelding trained by Roger Attfield, was a rallying 2 1/4-length winner of Sunday’s Grade 2, $212,000 Sky Classic over 1 1/4 miles on firm turf.

Forte Dei Marmi recorded his second straight Sky Classic win and his second consecutive stakes win after capturing the Grade 3 Singspiel over 1 1/2 miles on yielding turf July 7.

“He won in a typhoon and on a bog and came back and won on a firm course,” Attfield said. “He’s pretty versatile, isn’t he?”

Attfield had expressed concern before the Sky Classic over the possibility of very firm going, but he was reassured after walking part of the course Sunday morning.

“It was firm but not really a rattling-hard firm,” Attfield said. “There was a little cut in it. Anyway, he liked it. He just skipped over it.”

Forte Dei Marmi’s 2:00.12 clocking was a course record, and he’s likely to return in the Northern Dancer and the Oct. 27 Canadian International, the pair of Grade 1, 1 1/2-mile turf races in which he finished third here last year.

Perfect Timber, the runner-up to Forte Dei Marmi when making his stakes debut in the Singspiel, finished sixth in the Sky Classic, beaten six lengths, while making just his fifth career start.

“He ran well; he just couldn’t finish with those horses,” Attfield said. “He just doesn’t have that turn of foot. He’s the kind of horse who would prefer deeper going. He’s a big, galloping horse.”

Perfect Timber, bred in Ontario by his owner, Chuck Fipke, also is a prospect for the Northern Dancer.

Hampstead Heath and Grand Arch finished second and third for trainer Brian Lynch in the Sky Classic, duplicating their placings in the Grade 2 Nijinsky over 1 1/8 miles on turf here July 21.

“Thrilled, again,” said Lynch, who trains Hampstead Heath for Rob Smithen and Grand Arch for Jim and Susan Hill. “Grand Arch will get a little freshening now and point toward something at Keeneland. Hampstead Heath, we’ll certainly sit down and think whether he can go on with these horses. He continues to give you the belief that [he] can.”

Hampstead Heath picked up $48,000 on Sunday, including $8,000 in Ontario-foaled bonus money, to bring his career bankroll to $320,477.

Carroll’s barn on hot streak

Trainer Josie Carroll has been on a tear lately, sending out 10 winners from her last 18 starters at Woodbine. And the leader of the barn during that span has been the Kentucky-bred 3-year-old filly Leigh Court, who became a stakes winner in the seven-furlong Duchess on July 21 and doubled up when trying turf for the first time in last Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Ontario Colleen at one mile.

“I think she’s starting to relax more every time she runs,” said Carroll, who conditions Leigh Court for owner and breeder Eugene Melnyk and has watched her record her stakes victories in front-running fashion under Gary Boulanger.

The next open stakes for the 3-year-old filly division is the Sept. 21 La Lorgnette, run at 1 1/16 miles and worth $125,000.

“We’ll have a look and see what’s available,” said Carroll, who also sent out the 4-year-old Kentucky homebred Hopes Alley to score in her debut here Saturday. Leigh Court has “won on dirt, Polytrack, and turf.”

Stockwatcher, a first-out winner at 6 1/2 furlongs Aug. 9, is a Carroll candidate for the $200,000 Simcoe, the 6 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-old colts and geldings that will be one of six yearling sales stakes run here Aug. 28.

“I loved his first start,” said Carroll, who trains Stockwatcher for Hurley Racing Stable. “He came up the rail and never hesitated.”

Carroll also said that Victory Exchange, an Ontario-bred 3-year-old who won his first two starts for owner and breeder Ivan Dalos, was injured during his most recent start and is out for the year.

“He has a hairline stress fracture in his shoulder,” Carroll said. “He’s gone to the farm for 90 days.”