06/19/2013 12:41PM

Woodbine notes: Frostad points Pyrite Mountain, County Lineman to Queen's Plate

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Michael Burns
Pyrite Mountain, winner of the Wando Stakes, will make his next start in the Queen’s Plate on July 7.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Pyrite Mountain, trained by Mark Frostad, is among the higher-profile horses heading for the $1 million Queen’s Plate here July 7. But Frostad has another Queen’s Plate candidate in County Lineman, who is well under the radar approaching the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

County Lineman served notice in his two starts here at 2 when he closed ground late to finish second at six furlongs and then rallied to win at seven furlongs, with both races coming in Ontario-sired company.

Sent to Palm Meadows for the winter, County Lineman finished last of six when trying 7 1/2 furlongs on dirt under first-level allowance terms at Gulfstream Park on March 9.

“It was bizarre,” Frostad said. “We thought he was going to run well; it was a big shock. But that kind of thing can happen at Gulfstream.”

Four weeks later, County Lineman tried a first-level allowance over about seven furlongs at Keeneland and finished 10th.

“He ran better there,” said Frostad, who trains County Lineman for the Ginger Punch Racing group.“He got bounced around three times and couldn’t get loose. It was a bad trip.”

County Lineman has looked much more like his old self since returning to his home base, landing his first restricted allowance condition at seven furlongs and then finishing third when trying two turns for the first time against Ontario-sired nonwinners of three.

Although County Lineman was beaten 10 lengths there, he was finishing behind a pair of older rivals, and Good Better Best, the romping 8 3/4-length winner, returned to just miss as the runner-up here in last Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Steady Growth Stakes.

“He got bounced and shuffled a bit there, too,” said Frostad, who elected to train County Lineman up to the Queen’s Plate following that 1 1/16-mile May 24 race. “I was toying with running him back, but I decided I’d rather give him the time.

“I think he’s better than his form might appear.”

On Wednesday morning, County Lineman worked six furlongs in 1:13.60 under jockey Luis Contreras while going in company with stablemate Moms Song and rider Gary Boulanger.

“I gave him some company just to keep him interested, and he galloped out very well,” said Frostad, who caught County Lineman going out seven furlongs in 1:27.40.

Pyrite Mountain, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes on May 5, is coming off a fourth-place finish as the lukewarm favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 9.

“It was a very, very slow pace,” said Frostad, who trains Pyrite Mountain for the Awesome Again Racing group. “They went the first quarter in 23, but they went the next two quarters in 25. How can you close into that?”

Frostad said Pyrite Mountain came out of the Plate Trial in excellent order and is scheduled to breeze this weekend.

Frostad also reports that Irish Mission, Canada’s champion 3-year-old filly and turf female of 2012, is on target to make her next appearance in the Dance Smartly Stakes.

The Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares that offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $200,000, is one of five stakes on the July 7 blockbuster Queen’s Plate program.

The other stakes on the bill are the Grade 2, $200,000 Highlander for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on the turf, the Grade 3, $150,000 Singspiel for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/2 miles on the grass, and the $150,000 Clarendon for Ontario-bred 2-year-olds at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Irish Mission ran well in two starts at Gulfstream Park this winter and then finished second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 2 Nassau over one mile of turf here May 25.

“We knew it was too short, but there was nothing else for her,” Frostad said. “So we put her in, and she ran well.”

Sweet Little Man plans undecided

Trainer Danny Vella won last year’s Queen’s Plate with Strait of Dover, and he is on the fence with Sweet Little Man for this year’s renewal.

Sweet Little Man, a homebred owned by Don Amos, finished third, beaten 5 1/2 lengths, as the only Canadian-bred in the field of four for last Sunday’s 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park.

“I think he ran a decent race, and I think you can improve on it a little bit, but we were hoping for a tiny bit more,” said Vella, adding that a decision on Sweet Little Man’s Queen’s Plate status should be made this weekend.

Vella plans to have at least one stakes starter on Queen’s Plate Day as Big Band Sound is headed for Highlander.

Big Band Sound, a 6-year-old horse who races for Kendel Standlee and breeder Richard Shultz, finished 2 1/2 lengths behind winner Fatal Bullet when last of five in the Highlander prep here last Saturday.

That six-furlong turf race was the first for Big Band Sound since Oct. 27, and he lost his path briefly in the stretch run.

“He got sawed off, but he wasn’t right there,” said Vella, suggesting that Big Band Sound may not have been quite ready for his best effort. “If he’d been right there, it might not have happened.”

Big Band Sound was one of the top sprinters on the grounds last year, on both turf and Polytrack, winning the Grade 2 Play the King over seven furlongs on the grass and running second in four other stakes.

Dan the Tin Man works for stakes

Dan the Tin Man, perfect in two starts this year, worked six furlongs on the turf training course in 1:15.60 here Wednesday morning with an eye toward the July 6 Charlie Barley Stakes.

Workouts were on the slow side as the turf was rated yielding and the dogs were well out on the seven-furlong oval.

The $125,000 Charlie Barley, an open one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds, will be run here July 6.

“It’s the only straight 3-year-old spot I’ve got right now,” said trainer Ricky Griffith, who has sent out Dan the Tin Man to win the six-furlong Woodstock here and the Tom Ridge over the same distance at Presque Isle Downs. “A mile might be stretching his distance limitations; that’s the big question. I feel more comfortable with him handling the grass than handling the mile.”

Are You Kidding Me, who also is eyeing the Charlie Barley, breezed four furlongs on the turf training course under jockey Todd Kabel while going in company with stablemate Perfect Forever.

Trained by Roger Attfield, Are You Kidding Me finished a closing sixth when making his last start in the $460,000 Penn Mile on the Penn National turf course.