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Woodbine: Play the King provides chance for Big Band Sound to shed seconditis
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Sunday’s seven-furlong Play the King is the local stakes stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, the $1 million turf race which will be renewed on Sept. 16. But the Play the King itself is a prize well worth winning, with Grade 2 status and a purse of $200,000, and has attracted a competitive field of 11 with most looking to have a chance at reeling in the top prize.
One entrant who is overdue to land the big one is Big Band Sound.
Big Band Sound has started has started four times at the current meeting, all in stakes, and finished second on each occasion.
“With a little luck he could have won at least a couple of those races,” said Danny Vella, who conditions the 5-year-old Big Band Sound for owner Kendel Standlee.
Racing on Polytrack in the six-furlong on Jacques Cartier and in the seven-furlong Vigil, Big Band Sound was beaten only by Essence Hit Man, the top main-track sprinter on the grounds.
Switching to turf, Big Band Sound was unable to run down Something Extra in the seven-furlong Connaught Cup and then was edged by Riding the River, a fellow Play the King contestant, in the one-mile King Edward.
The King Edward was run on June 24 so Big Band Sound will be making his first start in more than two months in the Play the King.
“He’d raced twice in Florida this winter, before his four very tough races here in the early part of the year,” said Vella. “We decided to freshen him a little bit, with an eye on a fall campaign. He was training every other day for a while, but now he’s had three good works in a row. He’s ready.”
Tyler Pizarro retains the mount on Big Band Sound.
Stein picks up mount on Artic Fern
Artic Fern showed a new dimension last time, coming from off the pace to capture the 6 1/2-furlong turf allowance prep for the Play the King here Aug. 6, and will be looking to employ similar tactics in the Play the King.
“I was toying with the idea of going straight to the Woodbine Mile with him,” said Mike Keogh, who conditions the homebred 5-year-old Artic Fern for Gus Schickedanz. “But he came out of the race happy and sharp, and I got to thinking about the weather and who might be coming in [for the Mile].”
Pizarro rode Artic Fern for the first time in the Ontario Jockey Club, a seven-furlong turf race for Ontario-breds on July 2 in which he was beaten a half-length as the runner-up, and was in the irons for the prep.
But with Pizarro opting to ride Big Band Sound in the Play the King Keogh needed a rider and went to Justin Stein, who was aboard when Artic Fern breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 on the training track turf course here last Sunday.
“I don’t see why he’d have any trouble getting him to relax,” said Keogh.
Pulpation takes shot at Ontario Colleen
Pulpation, a Kentucky-bred who is owned by Brenda Selwyn-Waxman, will represent the Keogh stable in Saturday’s Ontario Colleen Stakes.
The Ontario Colleen, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, attracted a field of 12 and Pulpation will be making her stakes debut.
“I wasn’t going to run her in there after I saw the noms – I thought it might be too tough,” said Keogh. “But when I looked at the proof [for the condition book] and saw there wasn’t a race for her until Sept. 9, I figured I’d give it a shot.”
Pulpation ran well on both Polytrack and turf as a 2-year-old but entered her current campaign as a maiden after six starts. After finishing eighth in her seasonal bow over five furlongs on the main track, Pulpation returned to turf for her next two starts and crossed the finish line first on both occasions, although she was disqualified from her last apparent victory over the Ontario Colleen’s distance and surface.
“She’s improving,” said Keogh. “She’s a trier. That’s one of the main things about her.”
Vella expects Seeking Toussaud to improve
Vella also is looking ahead to the Sept. 3 yearling sales stakes day card on behalf of Seeking Toussaud, who has been nominated to the 6 1/2-furlong Muskoka for 2-year-old fillies.
Seeking Toussaud, originally purchased for $52,000 at the local Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Sale, was entered back in the Ocala Breeders’ 2-year-olds in training sale in April and fetched $100,000.
Making her first lifetime start in the six-furlong Nandi for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies, Seeking Toussaud raced evenly en route to a fourth-place finish, beaten 4 3/4 lengths.
“She was a little nervous early in the race, and didn’t close quite as much as we wanted,” said Vella. “But, it was one of those days when they seem to go a little fast early but nobody changes positions. She’ll learn a lot from that start.”
Cryptic Message and Professor’s Ride, the one-two finishers in the Nandi, also are pointing for the $200,000 Muskoka, which should attract a large field.
Keogh mulls options for Ultimate Destiny
Keogh has nominated both Ultimate Destiny and Welloiledmachine to two of the $125,000 Labor Day yearling sales stakes, the 1 1/16-mile Elgin for colts and geldings and the Halton at one mile on the turf.
Ultimate Destiny also is nominated to the $125,000 Vice Regent, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds here Sept . 2, giving the trainer yet another option.
Pender Harbour, last year’s Sovereign Award-winning 3-year-old male, ended a close fourth in last Saturday’s Grade 2 Sky Classic at 1 1/4 miles on the turf and his trainer Mike DePaulo is leaning toward bringing him back in the Elgin.
Aldous Snow, a close second in the Breeders’ Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds over 1 1/2 miles of turf here last time out, is eyeing the Halton.
Atlantic Hurricane may ship to Presque Isle
Atlantic Hurricane, last year’s Canadian female sprint champion, breezed five furlongs in 59.80 seconds here Thursday under her regular rider Emile Ramsammy.
“She worked really well,” said Stu Simon, trainer and part-owner of the 5-year-old Atlantic Hurricane. “She seems to really be on her game now.”
Atlantic Hurricane is nominated to the seven-furlong Seaway Stakes, which is a Grade 3 race for fillies and mares here Sept. 1.
But Simon and his partners also are considering the Sept. 8 Presque Isle Downs Masters, a 6 1/2-furlong race for fillies and mares which offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $400,000.
“We’ll see how she comes out of the work and talk about it over the next few days,” Simon said.