04/07/2010 11:00PM

Woodbine roundup

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WHO'S HOT

As expected, winter-raced runners were dominant throughout the first three days of the meet, from April 2-4. The fitness edge they possessed over the layoff horses who were legged up at Woodbine was paramount. The locals seemed to hold their own only in races that contained no raiders from south of the border.

The only two Oaklawn invaders were victorious, and each was trained by Steve Asmussen. The eight Tampa shippers posted an impressive record of 4 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third. They included the 15-1 longshot winner Golden Tarique.

The 16 Gulfstream runners who saw action were 3-5-1. Fair Grounds shippers also performed well, going 3-1-1 with nine starters. Charles Town runners did okay in the cheaper claimers, registering a win and a pair of third-place finishes from four starters. One of the two Laurel invaders found the mark.

Shippers from Philadelphia Park and Penn National fared okay, although none of the five runners from those two Pennsylvania tracks got home on top.

The unseasonably warm weather may have taken its toll on the some of the locals, who will obviously improve with racing experience.

"The sudden heat is a big concern when horses are making their first start of the year," trainer Bob Tiller said. "I think a guy would be foolish to run an unfit horse in this kind of heat. It can really bother some of them."

Eurico Da Silva led the jockey standings after opening weekend, with six scores from 18 mounts for earnings of $224,316. Luis Contreras, who rides primarily for Asmussen, won with 4 of his 10 rides. Patrick Husbands, Woodbine's leading jockey from 2007 to 2009, won 4 races from 17 mounts. Journeyman David Clark found the mark aboard 2 of his 6 mounts.

Apprentice Omar Moreno, who got a ton of press leading up to opening day, was shut out on the first two days, but he rebounded with a three-bagger Sunday. Moreno won the Sovereign Award as last year's top apprentice. Barring injury, he should be among the leading Woodbine riders this year.

Asmussen's strong ship-in contingent helped vault him to the top of the trainer standings, winning with 4 of 10 starters. Perennial leading trainer Mark Casse, who won the featured Debut Stakes opening day with the upwardly mobile Grazettes Landing, scored twice from nine starters. Ralph Biamonte had 2 romping winners from 6 starters, and Sam DiPasquale was 2 for 3.

Trainers who clicked with their only starter were Mark Frostad, Tony Adamo, Norm DeSouza, Glenn Magnusson, and Bill Tharrenos.

WHO'S NOT

Nick Gonzalez, who led the trainer standings after the first month of the 2009 Woodbine meet, and trainer Howard Keen were shut out with eight starters apiece on opening weekend.

TRACK TRENDS

The Polytrack appeared to play fairly opening day, April 2, and on April 4. Both days had quite a few front-running winners, which was predictable, given the preponderance of shorter sprints that were carded.

On Saturday, April 3, the rail seemed dead. The only rail-skimming winner was the 2-5 favorite in the fourth, Miss Reginella, who pulled away in the stretch after an early speed duel to take the 4 1/2-furlong maiden special for 3-year-old fillies by four lengths.

Other horses who had an inside trip April 3 and are worth following include Songtress, Loveyouallthetime, Legal Review, Sky At Sunrise, Executively, Moonlit Beauty, Dame Cliequot, and Red and Bold.

BEAR WATCH

Horses who run a huge race following a winter layoff here at this time of year usually regress if they return within a month of that performance, often at a chalky price. Fastin Bear will be a bounce candidate if he runs back April 25 in the $150,000 Woodstock Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Fastin Bear competed in a quality five-horse field when he returned from a seven-month layoff April 3 in the five-furlong allowance prep for the Woodstock. After breaking a tad slowly, he rallied wide on his left lead to overhaul the quick Florida shipper Wildcat Frankie in deep stretch, winning by three-quarters of length and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 91.

Fastin Bear crushed a good field in his final 2-year-old appearance, the seven-furlong Simcoe Stakes. He appears to have a bright future but looms a vulnerable favorite in the six-furlong Woodstock.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

Gulfstream shipper Shabaab ran a hole in the wind on the front end while notching a first-level allowance April 3. The Mike Pino trainee outran the other speed while setting rapid splits of 21.72 and 44.51 seconds en route to a comfortable score. His five-furlong clocking of 56.98 was .57 seconds off the track record, and he was awarded a 93 Beyer.

QUEEN'S PLATE TOP 10

The 151st running of the $1 million Queen's Plate, arguably Canada's most prestigious race, will be run at Woodbine on July 4. Run at 1 1/4 miles, the Queen's Plate is restricted to Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and has been won by such standouts as Northern Dancer, Awesome Again, and Dance Smartly.

Here are my top contenders for the race:

1. Hollinger, 2. Giant's Tomb, 3. D's Wando, 4. Hotep, 5. Roan Inish, 6. Captain Canuck, 7. Ghost Fleet, 8. Stormy Lord, 9. Mobil Unit, 10. Cognashene

HORSES TO WATCH

Mighty Monarch

Trainer: Laurie Silvera

Last race: April 2, 6th

Finish: 4th by 4 1/2

He was reasonably spotted in his return from a four-month absence in a $20,000 claimer over five furlongs. He broke about two lengths behind the field, was blocked behind rivals in sixth on the turn, and then rallied belatedly. His maiden win came over six furlongs, and a move to a longer sprint will suit him.

Paso Doble

Trainer: Sid Attard

Last race: April 2, 8th

Finish: 3rd by 1 1/4

One of the better Ontario-sired sprinters on the grounds last year, he made his first start for trainer Sid Attard opening day in the five-furlong Debut Stakes. He put away Bold Nurse on the lead early in the stretch and then gave way grudgingly to the eventual winner, Grazettes Landing, before getting caught on the wire for second.

Hosannah's Song

Trainer: Michael Pino

Last race: April 4, 9th

Finish: 3rd by a neck

A $200,000 purchase by the popular sire Malibu Moon, she was bet down to 9-2 in a contentious field of 3-year-old fillies when she made her debut in this five-furlong maiden special. After getting bumped at the break, she came wide from a stalking position with a powerful, long stride and just missed. Should be better for the experience.