07/10/2012 2:47PM

Woodbine: Pierce pair on Triple Crown trail, just late to get going

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Malcolm Pierce returned from his annual sojourn in New Orleans this spring with a pair of potential candidates for the $1 million Queen’s Plate.

Dead On and Aldous Snow, both homebreds who race for Pierce’s major client, Sam-Son Farm, had shown enough in their 2-year-old campaigns to be considered as long-term candidates.

As it transpired, neither Dead On nor Aldous Snow was in the lineup for the June 24 Queen’s Plate over 1 1/4 miles on Polytrack.

But each is now in line for a bid in a leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Dead On is running in Sunday’s Prince of Wales over 1 3/16 miles on Fort Erie’s dirt surface and Aldous Snow is being pointed for the Breeder’s Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on the turf here at Woodbine on Aug. 5.

Dead On and Aldous Snow both made their seasonal bows under first-level allowance terms in an off-the-turf 1 1/16-mile allowance race in New Orleans on March 25.

“It was kind of an experiment,” said Pierce. “Both horses really needed to get a race, and it was getting toward the end of the Fair Grounds meet, so we let them both run. It turned out that Aldous Snow couldn’t run on the dirt, and Dead On liked it.”

Dead On finished second that day, beaten a neck, with his entrymate Aldous Snow ending 11 lengths back in eighth place.

Pierce and Sam-Son kept both Dead On and Aldous Snow eligible for the Queen’s Plate, but neither horse was sufficiently impressive enough here to earn an appearance.

Dead On made his first start of the meeting in the May 5 Queenston, a seven-furlong race in which he was prominent early but evened out to finish four lengths behind the winner in seventh place.

“Running him seven-eighths, backing him up from two turns, was probably a mistake,” said Pierce.

But Dead On fared no better when he stretched back out for the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 3 as he never seriously threatened, beaten 10 1/2 lengths as the eighth-place finisher in the field of 11.

“The Plate Trial was a disappointment,” said Pierce. “So we decided to geld him, give him a break, and concentrate on training into the Prince of Wales. He’s had plenty of time to get over being gelded. It should get him more focused. We’re hoping to make him a racehorse, not a stallion.”

Dead On‘s four breezes since the Plate Trial have come over the dirt training track here, with the latest coming last Sunday under Tyler Pizarro.

Emma-Jayne Wilson, who rode Dead On to his maiden win in his second career start here last September, has picked up the mount for the Prince of Wales.

Meanwhile, Aldous Snow moved to the turf for his second start of the season at Keeneland, which came in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race, and he was beaten 1 3/4 lengths as the third-place finisher.

”He was more looking at the horses beside him than trying to run by them,” said Pierce. ”He’s improved by leaps and bounds since then.”

Aldous Snow made his local seasonal bow here May 13, finishing a close fourth in a five-horse field of 3-year-olds in a first-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles.

The winner of that race, Colleen’s Sailor, came back to finish fourth in the Queen’s Plate and will carry on to the Prince of Wales for trainer Roger Attfield.

Aldous Snow also ran here on Queen’s Plate Day, but his appearance came in the race following the main event, a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles on turf, in which he was an impressive winner by 2 1/2 lengths.

“We’d kind of hemmed and hawed about running him in the Queens’ Plate, right up until entry day,” said Pierce. “But that grass race in his condition made sense. He’s by Theatrical – he’s going to do his best running on turf, when it’s all said and done.

“He might be an allowance horse on Polytrack. He should be a stakes horse on turf.”

Barn has new attractions

Pierce took charge of a number of Sam-Son horses this year who were formerly trained by Mark Frostad, including the 2009 Queen’s Plate winner, Eye of the Leopard, and the 2010 Queen’s Plate runner-up, Hotep.

Eye of the Leopard has been unplaced in his two starts for Pierce, which came on Polytrack in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland and the Grade 3 Eclipse here at Woodbine.

And, while Eye of the Leopard’s only try on turf was an 11th-place finish in the Breeders’, Pierce is considering giving the 6-year-old horse another crack at the E.P. Taylor course in the Nijinsky Stakes.

The 1 1/8-mile Nijinsky, which offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $300,000, will be run here July 22.

“He’s been training quite well on turf,” said Pierce, who has had Eye of the Leopard on a once-a-week turf training course schedule since June 15. “It’s hard to find races for a horse like him, who’s out of conditions.”

Hotep, who knocked out his third allowance condition in a one-mile turf race here June 16, also is pointing for the Nijinsky.

“It’s good timing for him,” said Pierce.

Copter to carry riders

Woodbine will card Sunday’s featured $150,000 Shady Well Stakes, a 5 1/2-furlong race for Ontario-bred 2-year-olds, as the fourth race with a post time of 2:41 p.m.

With the Prince of Wales set for 5:20 p.m., Woodbine-based riders will have plenty of time to get to Fort Erie in a helicopter chartered by jockey agent Gary Kemplen.

“We’re doing this in an effort to show unity and support for our owners and trainers on the Ontario circuit,” said Steve Lym, racing secretary and a director of racing for the Woodbine Entertainment Group. “It will give the horses a chance to continue to have their regular riders and a better chance to deliver their best performances in both races.”

Kemplen represents Patrick Husbands, who has the call on the highly regarded first-time starter Spring in the Air for the Shady Well and will ride Queen’s Plate finisher Dixie Strike in the Prince of Wales. Both fillies are trained by Mark Casse.

Wilson, who also will take the aerial route to the Fort, has the mount on Cryptic Message for trainer Ralph Biamonte in the Shady Well.

Cryptic Message won a restricted 4 1/2-furlong maiden race in her only start.