12/07/2012 5:25PM

Woodbine: Ontario Lassie's distance may be right up Rutherford Rd's alley

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Earlier this year, trainer Michael Doyle was convinced that his 2-year-old filly Rutherford Rd did not care for the Polytrack surface here at Woodbine.

Three unplaced tries in Polytrack sprints, followed by a front-running win at 20-1 at seven furlongs on the turf, had seemed ample evidence for Doyle’s belief in Rutherford Rd’s preferences.

“She didn’t seem to like it in the spring,” said Doyle, who trains Rutherford Rd for the Kinghaven Farm of Bill Graham. “But now I think that it was more like she didn’t like being hustled, in the short races.

Indeed, the tide has turned recently and Rutherford Rd will go to the post with a decent chance in Sunday’s $150,000 Ontario Lassie, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Rutherford Rd raced twice more on turf after winning her maiden at seven furlongs, finishing a troubled 11th in a difficult edition of the Grade  2 Natalma Stakes and then third, beaten eight lengths, in a tough first-level allowance.

“Then we decided to give the Poly another try, going long,” said Doyle.

Rutherford Rd finished second in her first 1 1/16-mile race on the main track, beaten 3 1/4 lengths by Original Script, who is returning as the Ontario Lassie favorite.

Then, in her last and most recent outing, Rutherford Rd again rallied from just off the pace for a three-quarter-length victory.

“She seems to fall out now, and you just leave her alone,” said Doyle. “It looked like she would go long, and it’s worked out pretty good. I just hope it works out again Sunday.”

Doyle will be looking for his second stakes win of the meeting after sending out Lateegra to upset the Carotene, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies here Oct. 6.

And, the veteran trainer also has a candidate for the final stakes race of the meeting with Peyton on target for the closing-day Valedictory.

Peyton, a 3-year-old gelding owned and bred by Graham, was an impressive winner of the 1 1/2-mile allowance prep for the $175,000 Valedictory here Nov. 23. The Valedictory, at 1 3/4 miles, is the longest stakes race of the meeting.

Florida vacation for Lateegra

Lateegra, who was unplaced in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere over 1 1/16 miles of turf at Churchill Downs in her only start after the Carotene, currently is freshening up in Ocala, Fla.

“I’ll run her down in Florida, or on the way back home in Keeneland,” said Doyle.

Owned by Thor Eaton’s Eaton Hall Farm, Lateegra also was beaten a half-length as the runner-up here in the $250,400 Wonder Where Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, and banked $200,300 this year with a record of 2-2-0 from 9 starts.

Tormenta Fiera, a promising 2-year-old gelding whom Doyle conditions for Lorne Albaum and Tony Scordamaglia, is at Richard Hogan’s nearby farm and will be heading from there to Ocala.

Bred in Ontario, Tormenta Fiera closed strongly to finish third over 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in a quality open maiden race here Oct. 12.

Eight days later, Tormenta Fiera faced fellow Canadian-breds over the same distance and surface in the Cup and Saucer and finished a troubled third before being promoted to second via a disqualification.

The Doyle barn had compiled a record of 30-30-30 for earnings of more than $1.62 million from 242 starts heading into Friday’s program.

“I think I’ve had a very good year, with the horses we had,” said Doyle. “I’ve got some nice 2-year-olds I had to stop on. Hopefully, they’ll do well next year.”

Valedictory candidates work out

Get A Grip and Serious Indeed, both of whom are nominated to the Valedictory, breezed on the Polytrack here Friday morning with Get A Grip going seven furlongs in 1:29.80 and Serious Indeed five furlongs in 1:02.80.

Trainer Kevin Attard sent out Get A Grip to finish second behind Peyton in the prep, where Serious Indeed checked in fourth for trainer Alec Fehr.

Get A Grip and Serious Indeed, along with five of the other 20 nominees for the Valedictory, also are eligible for a closing-day 1 7/8-mile starter allowance for horses who have raced for a claiming price of $25,000 or less in 2011-2012.

In addition to Peyton, locally based Valedictory probables who are not eligible for the starter allowance include Quaesitor, Heathcote, and Attendant.

Quaesitor, third as the odds-on choice in the prep, is 3 for 7 this season and also ran well to finish fourth in Fort Erie’s Prince of Wales over 1 3/16 miles of dirt and third here in the Breeders’ over 1 1/2 miles of turf for trainer Ian Howard.

Heathcote, conditioned by Paul Attard, began his career here this past spring with three straight wins in restricted company and is coming off back-to-back second-place finishes in first-level allowance races at 1 1/4 miles.

Attendant, consistent but win-shy this year for trainer Mark Frostad, finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Heathcote as the third-place finisher in his latest.

Potential shippers for the Valedictory include Eye of the Leopard, the former Canadian champion 3-year-old who was sold by Sam-Son Farm this fall and now is in Kentucky with trainer Wayne Lukas; Lake Drop, who would be making his Polytrack debut for Graham Motion after finishing second in Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Red Smith over 1 3/8 miles of yielding turf; Imperial Pippin, a filly trained by Bill Mott who ran second when competing against her own sex here in the Nov. 3 Maple Leaf at 1 1/4 miles; and See Tobe, runner-up in this fall’s 1 1/2- mile Laurel Turf Cup for owner/trainer Gary Capuano.

◗ Stacie Roberts, executive director of The Jockey Club of Canada, reminds Sovereign media award aspirants that the deadline for eligible submissions this year has been extended to 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31. Awards will be presented in writing; photograph; and digital audio/video and broadcast categories. For more information contact Roberts at jockeyclub@bellnet.ca. All submissions must be sent by e-mail.