04/21/2011 11:15AM

Woodbine: Pierce working with fresh stock

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Malcolm Pierce finds himself in something of a rebuilding mode here this spring. But, with 40 stalls and horses for a variety of clients, Pierce figures to make his usual good showing at the 2011 meeting.

“Some of my good grass fillies have been retired,” said Pierce, noting that Points of Grace and Much Obliged have gone to the breeding shed. “Right now, I’ve got a lot of maidens but I’m a little lean in stakes horses. I’ll be looking for some of those maidens to pop up and show they’re good horses."

Pierce, as is his practice, spent the off-season at the Fair Grounds and compiled a record of 7-9-4 for purses of $297,130 from 54 starts at the meeting. But his barn also was bitten by the injury bug there as stakes winners Mullins Beach and Strike Again went to the sidelines.

“Mullins Beach hurt a hind leg,” said Pierce, who has sent out that 5-year-old mare to win stakes on turf and Polytrack here for owner/breeder Eugene Melnyk. “She went to Ocala. Hopefully, she’s not going to be gone too long and she’ll be back here this year.”

Strike Again, a 5-year-old horse who races for the Pin Oak Stable of Josephine Abercrombie, became a stakes winner last Dec. 4 in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial at the Fair Grounds.

“I had him working toward a race at Keeneland, but now he’s out for about four months,” said Pierce.

On the stakes front locally, Pierce has sent out Miss Inclined to finish third here in the six-furlong Star Shoot and Divine Music to run fifth in the Woodstock. Both 3-year-olds won first-level allowance races in New Orleans.

“Miss Inclined had kind of a poor trip,” said Pierce, who took over as the filly’s trainer while at the Fair Grounds. “There’s not a lot here coming back for her, except maybe the La Lorgnette. She acts like she’ll like two turns. She’s versatile – she’s run well on Polytrack, turf, and dirt.”

The $150,000 La Lorgnette, a 1  1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, will be run on the main track here May 15.
Divine Music came into last Saturday’s Woodstock off a close second-place finish in the six-furlong Black Gold at the Fair Grounds and ended fifth here, beaten 4 1/4 lengths.

“I was really disappointed,” said Pierce. “He had a perfect trip. I’m starting to think that he might have to run on dirt, and that we’ll have to look out of town."

Pierce’s current runners here also include the Sam-Son Farm homebreds Cognashene, Arrow’s Conquest and Stunning Split.

Cognashene, a 4-year-old gelding who was unraced as a 2-year-old, banked $160,242 via a record of 2-1-2 from six starts with one third-place finish coming in the $500,000 Breeders’.

“He’s proved that he’s a much better turf horse than a Poly horse,” said Pierce, who sent out Cognashene to breeze five furlongs in 1:01 here Wednesday.

Arrow’s Conquest is another 4-year-old gelding who began his career last year.

“I’ll be looking for a two-turn allowance race for him,” said Pierce, who sent out Arrow’s Conquest to win two of six starts and $104,612 last season.

Stunning Split, a maiden who was with Pierce here last year and at the Fair Grounds this winter, ran fourth in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Keeneland last Saturday and arrived here Wednesday. Neil Howard was the colt’s trainer of record for the Kentucky outing.

“His last race at the Fair Grounds was very good,” said Pierce, noting that Stunning Split had finished second over 1 1/16 miles of turf on Feb. 19. “He’s a Plate hopeful if we can get his maiden broke here. He might be a little better on grass than he is on Poly but you get one chance in your life to run a horse like that in the Plate.”

The 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate, a $1 million race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be run on June 26,

Three-year-olds go long

Saturday’s card includes the meeting’s first two-turn straight maiden race for 3-year-olds, and the field of seven includes five Queen’s Plate eligibles: Enduring Star, Superbull, Oban, Put On Hold, and Reigners Lane.

Enduring Star, third here in last year’s 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity for Canadian-breds, ended third in a 1 1/8-mile maiden turf race at Gulfstream this winter, which marked his seasonal debut and most recent outing.

Mark Casse trains both Enduring Star and Superbull, who debuted in a 1 1/16-mile maiden turf race at Gulfstream this March and led into the stretch before faltering to finish 10th.

Oban, conditioned by Mike Keogh, showed some late run to finish third in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race here April 9, which was his first start of the year and just the second of his career.

Ariana D fresh and dangerous

Ariana D made her only appearance here last year a winning one, scoring at 18-1 in the seven-furlong Bessarabian in her first start for trainer Laurie Silvera. On Saturday, Ariana D will be facing similar opposition in the six-furlong Whimsical and could prove a milder upsetter under returning rider Omar Moreno.

“I’ll be kind of surprised if she doesn’t run extremely well,” said Silvera, who conditions the 5-year-old homebred for owner Bill Thompson.

Ariana D returned to her owner’s Maple Lane Farm in North Carolina following the Nov. 21 Bessarabian and joined Silvera in Ocala in mid-February.

“She was looking extremely well, as they are inclined to do when they’re turned out for a while,” said Silvera. “I managed to breeze her once down there. She tightened up in a hurry.”

Since returning to Woodbine at the end of March, Ariana D has turned in back-to-back five-furlong breezes in 59.60 with Moreno in the irons.

"She’s been working very, very well – there’s no question about it,” said Silvera, noting that while the Whimsical’s six furlongs might not be Ariana D’s ideal trip she has won at the distance. “Another half-furlong wouldn’t have hurt my feelings but you take what you get,” said Silvera. “She’s capable of getting up in here if it’s a well-run race.”

And Silvera can envision that scenario with Wildcat Marie breaking from the rail and Waccamaw, just to her outside expected to provide a lively pace.

Ariana D will have five rivals in the Whimsical, which had 19 nominees.

Midst and Stormy Publisher, who were on that list, have been entered in Saturday’s Giant’s Causeway at Keeneland.