06/09/2010 11:00PM

Woodbine roundup

Email

WHO'S HOT

Leading rider Patrick Husbands led all jockeys during the nine racing days from May 26-June 6, winning on 11 of 51 mounts. Other hot jocks during that time were Emile Ramsammy (10 for 48), Luis Contreras (7 for 25) and Emma Wilson (7 for 30).

Leading trainer Mark Casse clicked with 6 of 26 starters to lead all conditioners from May 26-June 6. Other trainers who posted a win percentage of at least 20 during that time were Steve Asmussen, Ian Black, Sid Attard, Jim Smith, Josie Carroll, Laurie Silvera, Mike DePaulo, John Ross, Danny Vella, Sean Smullen, Steve Attard, Ashlee Brnjas, and John LeBlanc Jr.

WHO'S NOT

U.S. shippers have fared poorly of late, except for Exhi in the Marine Stakes. They disappointed the most in last Saturday's Grade 2 Nassau Stakes, in which favored Rainbow View, Carribean Sunset, and Closeout finished third, fifth and sixth.

Kentucky sire Ghostzapper, North America's Horse of the Year in 2004, was 0 for 42 with first-time starters on the continent heading into last week. His two debuting progeny here last week, Zafrina and Kissed by a Ghost, both missed the board as the favorite.

TRACK TRENDS

Wednesday, May 26: Inside/speed types did better than usual on this card, although the Polytrack was relatively fair overall.

An idiosyncrasy regarding the Polytrack is that pace is often meaningless in the two-turn races, and closers have repeatedly overcome slow fractions to prevail. There were two 1 1/16-mile races on the May 26 card, and closers ran one-two in the first off fractions of 25.47 and 50 in a $12,500 conditioned claimer. In the seventh, Carnduff shook loose on the lead through splits of 24.02 and 48.30 en route to a narrow tally over $40,000 maidens.

Front-runners who go in 24 and 48 and change seem to have as good a chance as those who establish fractions of 25 and 50, an anomaly that jockey Jim McAleney has an explanation for.

"If you're setting a quicker early tempo, the horses in behind are using themselves to maintain that same tempo, and are taking away from their own finish," McAleney said. "If you're setting a slow pace, everyone is sitting and saving as much horse as you are, and they have a better chance of closing."

Saturday, May 29: There was an outside bias on the Polytrack. Horses that had an inside trip included Teton Pass, Helena's Secret, Lemonella, Belle Valee, Expect Colonial, and Mint Chip, who raced four wide until the far turn before trying to mount a rail rally in the Marine Stakes.

Wednesday, June 2: Outside runners dominated the results on this rainy evening. Golden Girl Sue was the only horse who prevailed after racing fairly close to the rail, and she was in the two-path on the turns and in the four-path on the backstretch during her front-running score. Horses that saved ground included New Year's Baby, Moseley's Gift, Luigi's Honour, and Captive Spirit.

NOTABLE PERFORMANCES

Grand Adventure came close to the seven-furlong course record while defeating a quality field in the Grade 3 Connaught Cup Stakes May 30. Patrick Husbands had Grand Adventure racing about three lengths off the leaders on the outside on the backstretch, and they loomed into serious contention in midstretch before edging away to score by a length over Field Commission, last year's Canadian champion sprinter.

Grand Adventure's final time of 1:19.83 was just .45 off the course record set in 2004 by Soaring Free, who, like Grand Adventure, is owned by Sam-Son Farm. The Mark Frostad trainee could be a force as a sprinter-mile this year.

Simply Splendid gamely held off a charging Miss Keller after pressing a moderate pace to take the Grade 2 Nassau Stakes last Saturday. She scored by a half-length in 1:34.23 over a course labeled good.

Simply Splendid polished off a stellar field that included Rainbow View, Europe's champion 2-year-old filly in 2008; Carribean Sunset; and Points of Grace, who was last year's champion turf female in Canada.

Southdale notched his first stakes win last Saturday in the Grade 3 Eclipse after getting hammered down to 3-1 from a reasonable 8-1 morning line price. Southdale stalked in fourth on the outside before mowing down pacemaker Fatal Bullet in the final sixteenth, and won by three-quarters of a length over Stunning Stag. His 1 1/16-mile clocking of 1:43.77 was good for a 100 Beyer Figure.

Southdale had been idle for nearly a year prior to his triumph in a May 8 allowance, and should be a force in the local older horse ranks if he stays sound.

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 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. Artic Fern: Won a quick maiden special in his second start April 17, and outran Mobilizer in his rapid allowance win May 23. He beat older foes in a relatively slow clocking going 1 1/16 miles last Saturday. Langfuhr gelding is out of a full sister to 1999 Plate winner Woodcarver.

2. Hotep: A full brother to last year's Plate winner, Eye of the Leopard, he exited a slump while taking the May 8 Wando Stakes, and returned to finish second to favored Exhi in the Marine Stakes. Son of A.P. Indy is one of three Sam-Son Farm homebreds on the list, along with Giant's Tomb and Dark Cloud Dancer.

3. Hollinger: The reigning Canadian champion 2-year-old suffered his first loss in his season debut when he was a fading fourth in the seven-furlong Queenston Stakes. That race should set him up adequately for a two-turn engagement, and he did work a solid mile June 4.

4. Mobilizer: Stronach Stable runner graduated with determination second time out, and was a wide, closing second to Artic Fern May 23. Queen Elizabeth II is scheduled to attend this year's Plate, and Stronach's Awesome Again was victorious the last time that she was here for the race in 1997.

5. Embur's Song: Unbeaten Todd Pletcher-trained filly has two of the highest Beyers among the Plate nominees (99 and 98), and she should be heavily favored in Sunday's Woodbine Oaks.

6. Essence Hit Man: Crack sprinter isn't eligible for the Plate, but he could be supplemented to the race at the time of entry for $25,000. Son of champion sprinter Speightstown ran well for third in the 1 1/16-mile Marine but is questionable over longer route distances.

7. D's Wando: Closer appears to be a genuine stayer like his sire, Wando, who captured the Canadian Triple Crown in 2003.

8. Giant's Tomb: Son of Awesome Again has six two-turn races on his r sum and seemingly wants to run all day.

9. Ghost Fleet: Won two stakes at 2 before ending up fourth behind Hollinger and D's Wando in the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity in November. He checked in second in the Queenston following a six-month layoff.

10. Dark Cloud Dancer: Won his maiden second time out traveling seven furlongs May 16, earning a respectable 85 Beyer, and was a wide, closing second last Sunday in a nine-furlong allowance. Son of Storm Cat is out of 2001 Plate winner Dancethruthedawn.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Sunday will be a preview day for the Queen's Plate with two nine-furlong preps on the card, the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks and the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes.

Embur's Song, Ernfold, and Resentless are the main contenders in the Oaks. Trainer Roger Attfield could run both Hollinger and Mobilizer in the Trial.

HORSES TO WATCH

Qwest Field

Trainer: John Ross

Last race: June 3, 3rd

Finish: 1st by 4

This 3-year-old won his debut impressively, covering six furlongs in 1:09.34 and earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure. Ross said this son of Five Star Day lost a front shoe in the post parade before the race.

Flutter Bird

Trainer: Reade Baker

Last race: June 6, 4th

Finish: 2nd by 2 3/4

A daughter of Milwaukee Brew, she was in tight at the head of the stretch while seeking room and made up some ground in the final furlong when favored in this maiden special route.

Bold Canadian

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Last race: June 6, 8th

Finish: 4th by 2 1/2

He awaited room in midstretch before rallying in the final furlong in his first start of the year, on yielding turf, in the restricted Bold Ruckus Stakes.

Summer Ending

Trainer: Radlie Loney

Last race: June 3, 5th

Finish: 5th by 2

She broke a bit slowly and was blocked behind rivals exiting the turn before closing belatedly in her debut in a six-furlong maiden special for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.