06/13/2013 4:04PM

Woodbine notes: Northern Passion eyes confidence-booster in Zadracarta

Michael Burns
Northern Passion will take on Ontario-breds in the Zadracarta.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Northern Passion has returned from a 10-month layoff to finish close in two graded stakes for fillies and mares here this spring, finishing fourth in the six-furlong Whimsical on the Polytrack and third in the Nassau at a mile on turf.

On Saturday, Northern Passion will be dropping in class to face Ontario-breds in the $125,000 Zadracarta Stakes and looms as the one to beat in the seven-furlong turf race for fillies and mares.

“It’s her third start off a layoff, and you would think if she comes with her ‘A’ game she’d be very tough,” said Mark Casse, who trains Northern Passion for John Oxley.

“Obviously, we just want to try to get her back on a winning note. It’s just somewhere for her to hopefully build some confidence.”

Northern Passion’s most important win to date came here in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes, a one-mile turf race for 2-year-old fillies.

The filly also has been effective on Polytrack, winning last year’s seven-furlong Fury and finishing second in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks in what turned out to be her last appearance of 2012.

“Ever since she was a 2-year-old, she would have these little issues where she would get unsound for a few days, and we never really could figure it out,” Casse said. “Finally, I just sent her on home.”

Luis Contreras retains the mount on Northern Passion, who will start from post 1 in the field of nine.

Part the Seas, trained by Malcolm Pierce, also is moving from the Grade 2 Nassau to more comfortable company.

“It’s a little bit quick back for her but, it looks like a good spot,” Pierce said.

Owned and bred by Sam-Son Farms, Part the Seas was beaten four lengths in the Nassau after beginning her campaign with a victory over six furlongs on Polytrack under second-level allowance terms here on April 20.

Bear’s Gem will be looking for her sixth straight win after capturing the six-furlong Ballade Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares in her seasonal bow. Dance to the Moon, the runner-up in that race, also is in the Zadracarta lineup.

In her only try on turf, which came in a one-mile restricted maiden race here on Sept. 1, Bear’s Gem finished a close third.

“I’m not concerned about going on the turf, but I’m concerned about the step up in class,” said Reade Baker, who trains the 4-year-old Bear’s Gem for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion.

Justin Stein will ride Bear’s Gem for the first time in the Zadracarta.

Moonlit Beauty, who won the 2011 running of the Zadracarta for her owner-breeder Bill Gierkink and trainer John LeBlanc, will appreciate this return to turf after opening up her campaign with an eighth-place finish in the Ballade.

Jesse Campbell will ride Moonlit Beauty, who is the 121-pound highweight and will begin from post 8.

Rounding out the Zadracarta field are Evil Kitten, Awesome Fire, Why Katherine, and Daylight Cat.

Good Better Best ready to go

Good Better Best has finished second in three stakes, including last year’s Steady Growth at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and the Bunty Lawless at one mile on turf.

But Good Better Best’s career has been marked by setbacks, notably the one that kept him away from the races for more than a year after he had made just one start in his sophomore campaign.

“He was at Keeneland, and it had looked like he was solid Plate material,” trainer Roger Attfield said. “He was in his stall one night, and it started thundering and lightning. The horse got scared and broke a splint bone.”

Good Better Best also experienced some bad luck at Keeneland this spring after being entered for a race on April 20.

“We were putting the bridle on him, to take him over to the paddock,” Attfield said. “He saw the ‘Bud’ horses walking down the road and got excited, grabbed himself, and we had to scratch him.”

Barring intervention by the elements or wandering Clydesdales, Good Better Best could find himself in the stakes winner’s circle for the first time after running in Saturday’s $125,000 Steady Growth for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up.

The homebred Good Better Best, a 5-year-old horse who races for Dick Bonnycastle’s Harlequin Ranches, is coming into the Steady Growth off a confidence-building victory.

“He was impressive in his last race,” said Attfield, who watched Good Better Best lead throughout to score by 8 3/4 lengths in a restricted first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles here May 24. “It was a good race for him, an easy race.”

Justin Stein rode Good Better Best that day but is sticking with Fifty Proof, his long-term partner who is the 5-2 morning-line choice in the Steady Growth.

Contreras will ride Good Better Best for the first time in the Steady Growth, and Attfield does not believe his chances will be compromised by the front-running style of Fifty Proof.

“He doesn’t need to be on the lead,” Attfield said of Good Better Best. “He just dominated that field last time. To keep him off that kind of pace, you’d just kind of be hauling him off his feet.”

Haverhill stretches out in stakes

Casse also will have starters in the Steady Growth and in Saturday’s prep for the July 7 Highlander Stakes.

Haverhill, owned by Gary Barber, will be stretching out in the Steady Growth after finishing fourth in both the five-furlong prep for the New Providence and in the main event at six furlongs.

Claimed for $16,000 here last December, Haverhill moved up on dirt at Gulfstream Park with two second-place finishes and a first-level allowance win that yielded a 101 Beyer Speed Figure, a career top.

Shipped to Santa Anita, Haverhill finished a good third in a second-level allowance race before returning to Woodbine and Polytrack.

“There’s no question, at this point in time, Haverhill has not shown the fondness for synthetic which he has for dirt,” Casse said.

“When I first got the horse, I said to Gary that I’d like to try him going long and see if we could get him to settle, get into a nice stride, and see how he goes on.”

In the Highlander prep, Paso Doble, the New Providence winner after finishing second in that race’s prep, will be trying turf for the first time since finishing a close sixth in last year’s Grade 2 Highlander. The Highlander is a six-furlong turf race that will be run here on Queen’s Plate Day, July 7.

“There was a little bit of give in the ground, and I don’t think he cared for that much,” Casse said. “He needs it to be pretty hard. If there’s a little give in it, he’ll struggle a little.”

The Highlander prep, also scheduled for six furlongs on turf, attracted a field of five, with Consolidator Joe listed as a main-track-only entrant.