05/05/2010 11:00PM

Woodbine roundup

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WHO'S HOT

Mark Casse vaulted to the top of the trainer standings during the seven days of racing from April 23 to May 2. He won with 7 of 30 starters, a 23 percent win rate, which is better than it appears when you consider he ran two horses in several races.

Casse, who led the Woodbine trainer standings in 2002 and from 2007 to 2009, had 10 wins from 59 starters at the meet. Bob Tiller and Steve Asmussen were tied for second with seven scores apiece.

Tiller had a good run April 23 to May 2, clicking with 4 of 18 runners. Other hot trainers in that time were David Bell (2 for 6), Ian Howard (2 for 3), Mort Hardy (2 for 6), Michael Pino (2 for 5), Darwin Banach (2 for 4), Steve Klesaris (2 for 7), and Greg de Gannes (2 for 5).

After the first month of the meet, Eurico Da Silva and Patrick Husbands were tied atop the jockey standings with 21 wins each. Despite serving a suspension, Emile Ramsammy was a clear third with 20 victories.

Husbands led all riders from April 23 to May 2, winning aboard 10 of 46 mounts. Ramsammy was 8 of 23 from April 23 to April 25, before his suspension kicked in. David Clark and Tyler Pizarro were each 5 for 19.

Ballen Isle won his third consecutive $8,000 claimer last Saturday under Husbands. A 10-year-old owned and bred by Bill Sorokolit, Ballen Isle has 10 victories in 63 starts during a career that began in August 2002 at Laurel. His only non-claiming score came in a first-level allowance on the grass here in October 2003.

NOTABLE PERFORMANCES

Essence Hit Man established himself as the leading 3-year-old sprinter on the grounds, winning his stakes debut in a rapid clocking April 25 in the 112th running of the $174,800 Woodstock.

Jockey Chantal Sutherland let Essence Hit Man roll from the start, setting fractions of 22.33 and 44.91 seconds in the six-furlong dash. He began to tire after holding a three-length lead at the eighth pole but held on to prevail in 1:08.66, .35 of a second off the Polytrack record. Essence Hit Man earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

"This horse has a huge heart," Sutherland said. "He tried the whole way. He was tired at the end, but he gave everything that he had."

Essence Hit Man, trained by Audre Cappuccitti, is not nominated to the next local stakes for 3-year-olds, the May 15 Queenston, but he could be supplemented to the seven-furlong sprint.

Sutherland also rode favored Resentless in a five-length triumph last Saturday in the $151,200 Fury Stakes.

Resentless broke a bit slowly before setting moderate fractions in the seven-furlong race for Ontario-bred 3-year-old fillies. She drew away from a stalking Jenny's So Great early in the stretch and coasted home in a final time of 1:21.66, which translated into an 87 Beyer.

It was the first start of the year for Resentless, an Ian Howard-trained horse who is being pointed toward the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on June 13.

"I think she's developed nicely into this year," said Sutherland, who has won the last three stakes run at Woodbine. "She feels stronger, more coordinated, and more athletic. She's hitting the ground a little lighter, and I like her intensity."

TRACK TRENDS

The Polytrack played fair from April 23 to May 2, with the exception of the first Wednesday evening card of the meet, April 28, when front-runners won seven of the eight races. Horses who ran well against the grain of the speed bias included the lone closing winner, Molinaro Joyful, along with Gin Queen, Silver Pizzazz, Lido Beach, Clear Turbulence, Bears Miracle, Rimal Al Sahara, and Bell's First Lad.

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. The 1 1/4-mile fixture is restricted to Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and has been won by such standouts as Northern Dancer, Awesome Again, and Dance Smartly. These are my top 10 contenders for the race:

1. Hollinger: The unbeaten Queen's Plate winter-book favorite has been idle since his troubled triumph Nov. 8 in the $250,800 Coronation Futurity. He was working regularly at Keeneland before breezing three-quarters in a fast 1:12.60 here on the Polytrack April 30.

2. Giant's Tomb: The first of two Sam-Son Farm homebreds on the list, he has five two-turn races on his resume, including a daylight score in a March 22 optional claimer at the Fair Grounds.

3. D's Wando: Finished a wide, closing third in the nine-furlong Coronation and was a charging second in his season debut in the Woodstock Stakes. Appears to be a genuine stayer, like his sire, Wando, who captured the Canadian Triple Crown in 2003.

4. Hotep: He disappointed in a pair of Grade 2 stakes after his Feb. 1 allowance win at the Fair Grounds. His full-brother Eye of the Leopard got the money in last year's Plate for Sam-Son.

5. Roan Inish: Gifted, well-traveled filly wintered at the San Luis Rey Downs training center in Southern California and is bred to be a stayer. Finished second in her season opener in the Fury Stakes.

6. Ghost Fleet: Two-time stakes winner tailed off at the end of his juvenile campaign, although he finished a close fourth in the Coronation.

7. Embur's Song: Took her debut over about seven furlongs at Keeneland by 13 lengths, earning a 99 Beyer. A daughter of Unbridled's Song, she is nominated to the Woodbine Oaks, and she will have to be supplemented to the Plate if her connections want to compete.

8. Stormy Lord: Speedy gelding made most of the running when second in the Coronation. He seems questionable over extended route distances.

9. Mobilizer: He was a prominent third when he made his debut in a recent maiden special route at Keeneland for Hollinger's trainer, Roger Attfield, who holds him in high regard.

10. Artic Fern: Front-runner won the much faster split of a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special April 17 at Woodbine, receiving a 90 Beyer. A son of Langfuhr, he is out of a full sister to 1999 Queen's Plate winner Woodcarver.

HORSES TO WATCH

Signature Red

Trainer: Sid Attard

Last race: April 23, 6th

Finish: 2nd by 1 1/4

Broke a tad slowly before rallying quite wide from off slow fractions to finish second in his season opener in a third-level allowance. A stakes-placed 4-year-old, he should be tough with that tightener under his girth.

Pure Mirage

Trainer: Bob Tiller

Last race: April 24, 3rd

Finish: 5th by 4 3/4

Took the long way around while closing belatedly and galloped out strongly in her debut in a 5 1/2-furlong Ontario-sired maiden special. Should be more effective in a longer sprint if things go her way.

Montrose Avenue

Trainer: Nick Gonzalez

Last race: April 25, 9th

Finish: 4th by 3 1/2

Awaited room on the turn before making up some ground along the rail in his second start of the meet in a slow-paced Ontario-sired allowance.

Gore Bay

Trainer: Eric Coatrieux

Last race: May 1, 4th

Finish: 2nd by 1

Lacked room on the far turn before rallying inside to finish behind another winter-raced rival who had clear sailing on the outside.