06/07/2013 1:40PM

Woodbine notes: Pierce ready for busy day in stakes

Michael Burns
Smartyfly is one of two Malcolm Pierce-trained runners in the Woodbine Oaks.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Malcolm Pierce will be a busy man here Sunday, with six entrants on the 10-race program. The majority of Pierce’s participants will not be of the garden variety, as he will send out both Smartyfly and Dance Again in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, His Race to Win in the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes, and Overheard in the $125,000 Alywow Stakes.

“I hope I’ll be getting my picture taken lots of times,” said Pierce, who runs a 40-horse stable here with his wife and assistant, Sally.

Smartyfly and Dance Again both are homebreds who race for Sam-Son Farms, which will be looking for an eighth Woodbine Oaks victory.

But success in Sunday’s renewal would be the owner’s first with Pierce as its trainer and first under the stewardship of Rick Balaz, husband of the late Tammy Samuel-Balaz. Her father, Ernie, was the Sam-Son founder.

Both Smartyfly and Dance Again have made five lifetime starts but are coming into the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks on different cycles.
Smartyfly will be starting for the third time this season, with her latest appearance a second-place finish in the seven-furlong Fury Stakes here May 4.

Dance Again has seen action four times this year, but not since April 21 when she finished second in a 1 1/8-mile, first-level turf allowance race at Keeneland that has produced four next-out winners.

“I wanted to start the meeting with fresh horses,” Pierce said. “They’re both doing as well as can be expected, and I think a mile and an eighth is fine for both fillies.”

Smartyfly, a daughter of Smart Strike, proved herself last year around two turns on Polytrack, finishing third behind Woodbine Oaks contender Nipissing in the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth and then winning a maiden race at a mile and 70 yards.

After watching Smartyfly finish a troubled 11th in a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles of turf at Keeneland, Pierce elected to give the filly her final Woodbine Oaks prep in the Fury rather than waiting two weeks for the 1 1/16-mile Selene Stakes.

“We just wanted to space her races out more,” said Pierce, who prefers to give his horses plenty of time between starts.

That is even more evident in the case of Dance Again, who will be racing for the first time in seven weeks.

“That was by design; the big question with her is how she handles the Poly,” Pierce said of Dance Again, who won a maiden race at 1 1/16 miles at Fair Grounds in a race taken off turf and run on dirt, with all her other starts coming on turf.

“She was good in her last work here, but her second-last I wasn’t really pleased with.”

Pierce already has the pre-Trial Queen’s Plate favorite in Up With the Birds, who is heading to the July 7 showpiece off an impressive victory in the 1 1/16-mile Marine Stakes here May 26.

His Race to Win, who has thus far raced in the shadow of that more illustrious Sam-Son homebred, will be looking for a turn in the spotlight in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.

Although Pierce could have utilized other options for His Race to Win, who won for the first time when making his sixth career start in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race here May 12, the Plate Trial was his race of choice.

“This gives him four weeks from his last race and would give him four weeks to the Plate,” Pierce said. “He’s going to hook some better horses, and this will let us know whether we should go on to the Plate or not.”

Overheard, a Kentucky-homebred who races for the Pin Oak Stable of Josephine Abercrombie, has yet to finish worse than third in six lifetime starts.

In her last two starts, both in Grade 3 stakes, Overheard finished third here in the 1 1/16-mile Selene and second, beaten just a half-length, in Keeneland’s Appalachian Stakes at a mile of turf.

“This race is a little bit shorter for her than what we’d like,” Pierce said. “But, being American-bred, there isn’t much else here for her, and I think she’s a better horse on the turf.”

Eurico Rosa da Silva will ride Smartfly, His Race to Win, and Overheard. Shaun Bridgmohan, Dance Again’s rider in her three starts this year, retains that mount.

Scipio eyes maiden race as Plate prep

Scipio, a Queen’s Plate hopeful owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Reade Baker, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80 here Friday morning under his regular rider Emma-Jayne Wilson.

“He’s been working great,” said Baker, who had sent out Scipio to breeze five furlongs on the dirt training track in 58.60 seconds one week earlier.

Scipio debuted here last fall with a fourth-place finish at 1 1/16 miles, but was unplaced in two tries at Gulfstream Park this winter.

Back at Woodbine on April 26, Scipio ran well to be third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, going seven furlongs. Brilliant Comet and Bert’s Bar, the top two finishers there, have come back to win their next starts.

Baker is eyeing a 1 1/8-mile maiden race here Friday for Scipio’s next appearance. The colt is nominated to next Sunday’s Victoria Park, an open 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds.

“Going long isn’t going to be a problem for him,” Baker said.

Go Blue or Go Home shipping for Boyes

Baker plans to be at Presque Isle Downs on Monday to saddle Go Blue or Go Home for the $100,000 Karl Boyes Memorial, a 5 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up.

Go Blue or Go Home, a Virginia-bred 5-year-old owned by Jim and Susan Hill, last saw action at Churchill Downs on Nov. 8, winning a second-level allowance race at 5 1/2 furlongs in impressive fashion.

The Grade 2, $200,000 Highlander, a six-furlong turf race here on Queen’s Plate Day, also is on Go Blue or Go Home’s prospective dance card.

CBC to broadcast Oaks, Plate Trial

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will televise the Woodbine Oaks and the Plate Trial in a one-hour show beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. The Plate Trial is scheduled to go to post at 4:12 p.m. and the Woodbine Oaks at 4:47 p.m.

David Amber will host the broadcast, with Woodbine’s Jim Bannon and Jeff Bratt serving as analysts. Carly Agro, Sandy Hawley. and Renee Kierans (on horseback) are the roving reporters. Woodbine announcer Dan Loiselle will call the Oaks for the 27th time.

Matt Taylor is the director, and Phil Lachappelle the producer.

TVG will be showing the Woodbine card with locally based freelance broadcaster Jason Portuondo providing onsite commentary.

Rosario autograph session

Joel Rosario will be signing photos commemorating his Kentucky Derby victory aboard Orb here Sunday.

The jockey, who also won this year’s Dubai World Cup with Animal Kingdom, will be available from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at a second-floor booth next to the customer-service desk.

Rosario has been named on horses in four races here Sunday, including the three stakes on the program.