09/23/2013 2:02PM

Woodbine notes: Drake savors first stakes victory with Lapsang

Michael Burns
Lapsang, with Omar Moreno aboard, wins the Deputy Jane West Stakes on Saturday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Suzanne Drake has paid her dues in the racing game, learning the ropes before launching her own training career in 1992 while also running her Silver Duck Racing Stable with her husband, Tim.

Last Saturday, Drake celebrated her first stakes win when Lapsang, a 2-year-old filly she owns in partnership with Janice and Joseph Pollard and Philip Yu, was up in time for a neck victory in the $114,800 Deputy Jane West Stakes.

“It’s just tremendous,” Suzanne Drake said. “We’ve had so much support from so many people. The gate crew was so important. We had to take her to the gate a number of times. And Kemar Barnett, who works for Mark Casse but gallops her for us, he’s done a tremendous job.”

Lapsang was bred by the Pollards and is out of their mare Genska, who won three races and $112,790 in a 14-race career for trainer Sue Leslie.

“She came to us as a boarder, and they bought her,” said Drake, noting that the Silver Duck operation in nearby King City, Ontario, also stands the stallion Piccilo Pete and has several mares. “The farm always has been very important to us. It’s always the been the mainstay, much ahead of the racing. Tim and I are pretty hard workers, and we’ve always worked away, hoping for some good luck.”

Drake, born in London, Ontario, attended the University of Western Ontario and graduated with a combined major in English and history.

“I’d always loved horses, and I’d thought I’d go and work with them and get it out of my blood,” she said.

Not surprisingly, at least to those hooked on the game, that never happened. Drake worked at Harlequin Farm, then with owner and breeder Gustav Schickedanz at the racetrack.

The family had its first blush of stakes success when Grecian Pass, co-owned by Tim Drake in partnership with Schickedanz, won Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Rare Treat in February 1992. Grecian Pass made her final two starts for Suzanne Drake later that year, and the trainer has since maintained a small outfit here at Woodbine, with the seven horses under her shed row representing her largest stable to date.

Lapsang, who was just her ninth stakes entrant, won Saturday for the second time in as many starts under jockey Omar Moreno, having taken an open, six-furlong maiden race Aug. 31.

“I’d like to try her on turf,” Drake said, noting that Genska had won a first-level allowance race on grass here but had not raced farther than a mile. “I don’t know if I want to try her long this year.”

Phil’s Dream having big meet

When Gypsy Ring went to the sidelines with suspensory problems last summer, his owner, trainer, and breeder, Paul Buttigieg, looked for a successor in the Ontario-sired sprint ranks. And as Buttigieg predicted earlier this season, Phil’s Dream has taken the baton, recording his fifth win in seven starts at the meeting and becoming a stakes winner in Sunday’s seven-furlong Overskate for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Buttiegieg said the morning after watching Phil’s Dream collect the $75,000 winner’s prize and earn a career-high 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Overskate. “He’s definitely improving.”

Phil’s Dream, a 5-year-old gelding, had shown promise in his first campaign at 3 but then missed all of 2012.

“He had the start of a tendon [injury], so I laid him up,” Buttigieg said. “I put him back in training in January.”

Phil’s Dream returned with a second-place finish in April, then moved through his two remaining Ontario-sired allowance conditions and his first open allowance condition. He then made his stakes debut in the 6 1/2-furlong Shepperton on Aug. 5 and finished fourth.

“That was because of a screwed-up work,” Buttigieg said. “He worked in 1:04 a week before the race. You might as well leave him in the barn when he works like that.”

Phil’s Dream knocked out his second restricted allowance condition over seven furlongs on turf here in June, his only start on grass prior to the Overskate Stakes. The horse will be nominated to a pair of turf stakes, the Oct. 13 Nearctic and the Oct. 20 Bunty Lawless.

The six-furlong Nearctic is a Grade 1 worth $300,000 and is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, while the $125,000 Bunty Lawless goes at one mile and is for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up.

“He’s running fast enough, but if the Nearctic’s too tough, I’m not going to throw him in there,” Buttigieg said.

Gypsy Ring, now 7, was beaten just a neck as the third-place finisher in the 2011 Nearctic and is on the comeback trail here.

“He’s 100 percent healed right now,” Buttigieg said. “For him, it’s day to day, week to week. If I can get one or two starts out of him, that wouldn’t put me back so far if I can come back next year with him.”

Gypsy Ring has recorded four breezes, with the most recent a leisurely four furlongs in 51.60 last Saturday.

“He never worked fast – that’s all he does,” Buttigieg said.

Carroll barn picks its spots

Leigh Court, whose only previous try around two turns had been a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Selene Stakes in May, was asked to attempt that trip again here Saturday in the $128,250 La Lorgnette Stakes. And the new and improved version of Leigh Court had no difficulty this time, leading throughout to score by 5 1/4 lengths under regular rider Gary Boulanger.

“She’s won now from three-quarters to a mile and a sixteenth, on three surfaces,” said trainer Josie Carroll, who had sent the Kentucky-bred Leigh Court out to win over six furlongs on dirt at Fair Grounds in her career debut and to capture the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen over one mile on turf Aug. 17.

With no guaranteed open stakes for 3-year-old fillies left on the Woodbine calendar, Carroll will consider her options for Leigh Court’s next test.

“We’ll sit down, see how she comes out of this, and make a plan,” said Carroll, who conditions Leigh Court for owner and breeder Eugene Melnyk.

Carroll has set targets for James Street, the Kentucky homebred 6-year-old horse owned by Melnyk, and Ami’s Holiday, the Ontario homebred 2-year-old colt owned by Ivan Dalos. James Street is eyeing the Oct. 6 Durham Cup, a 1 1/8-mile race that offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000. Ami’s Holiday is headed for the same day’s Grey Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race that also is a Grade 3 worth $150,000.

James Street is coming off a seventh-place finish, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup at 1 1/16 miles here Aug. 3.

“I thought he found himself a little close early there, and that took himself out of his game a little bit,” Carroll said. “He’s been training really strongly into the Durham, and he’ll be reunited with Patrick Husbands.”

Ami’s Holiday has seen action just once, scoring a 3 1/4-length victory under jockey Luis Contreras while coming from just off the pace at six furlongs.

“He certainly has a two-turn pedigree,” Carroll said. “This may be a little ambitious, but he ran a big race first out.”