05/02/2011 12:46PM

Woodbine: Roxy Gap likely to train up to Oaks without any further prep

Michael Burns
Roxy Gap, winning last weekend's Fury under Patrick Husbands, will probably not have another prep before the Woodbine Oaks.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Roxy Gap was undefeated in three starts here at Woodbine last year and was looking to use the Natalma as a stepping-stone to a Breeders’ Cup appearance.

But fate intervened, and Roxy Gap did not revisit the winner’s circle until she prevailed by three-quarters of a length here in last Saturday’s $150,000 Fury Stakes with jockey Patrick Husbands aboard for the first time.

“It’s been a struggle,” said Mark Casse, who conditions the homebred Roxy Gap for Eugene Melnyk. “It’s taken us a long time, to get this win out of her.”

Casse’s trials with Roxy Gap began when he checked in on the filly on the morning of the Sept. 18 Natalma.

“It was strange. It was like she had some type of bite, on the outside of a cannon-bone,” said Casse.

Roxy Gap also was running an escalating temperature and Casse called in veterinarian Robert McMartin.

“Dr. McMartin was so concerned that he sent her to the clinic,” said Casse. “She ended up being there almost a month, fighting some kind of infection.

“She’s not a big filly anyway – she probably doesn’t weigh 850 pounds – and she lost maybe 100 pounds.’

Roxy Gap resurfaced at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 5 in the Grade 3 Old Hat but suffered the first defeat of her career, finishing seven lengths back as the third-place finisher under rider Julien Leparoux.

“She’s probably as fast a breaking horse as I’ve ever had,” said Casse. “In the Old Hat she stumbled a touch, and another horse broke out and hit her.

“She was confused; she might have had the wind knocked out of her. But she finished well, and galloped out well. It was a much better race than it looks.”

Roxy Gap was entered back in the Davona Dale, a one-mile race at Gulfstream on Feb. 26, but was scratched.

“She actually trains much better on synthetics so I sent her to Ocala,” said Casse. “I knew I needed to do that, if we were going to make the Oaks.”

The $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, will be run on June 5.

And while Roxy Gap is nominated to the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette, an open race for 3-year-old fillies here May 15, she will be heading straight to the Oaks off her victory in the seven-furlong Fury.

“I think that’s what makes the most sense,” said Casse.

Delightful Mary needs some time off

Delightful Mary, a Kentucky-bred who was Canada’s champion 2-year-old filly for Casse, also is nominated to the $150,000 La Lorgnette but is not scheduled to participate.

Owned and bred by John Oxley, Delightful Mary had been slated for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks but no longer is under consideration.

“I worked her last Friday, and it wasn’t that great,” said Casse. “Mary’s’ been on my schedule all winter long. Now, we’re going to go on her schedule.

“I talked to Mr. Oxley, and he agreed. She’ll let us know when she’s ready to run.”

Check Your Soul solidifies Queen’s Plate credentials

Roger Attfield, back at Woodbine for the first time since accepting his Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding trainer on the eve of the 2011 meeting, was back in the stakes winner’s circle following Sunday’s $118,200 Wando.

Attfield’s ticket there came courtesy of Check Your Soul, who was making a successful stakes and synthetics debut after winning a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles of turf at Keeneland on April 15.

Check Your Soul, owned and bred by Charles Fipke, was making his third career start in the 1 1/16-mile Wando after being unraced as a 2-year-old.

“We took a little chip out of his ankle early last year, after he first came up from Florida,” said Attfield, who sent out five winners and 13 top three finishers from 20 starters at Keeneland, capped by Musketier’s victory in last Friday’s Grade 3 Elkhorn.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise. He was a big, gangly horse and we took a fair old bit of time with him.”

Check Your Soul, who was with Attfield at Payson Park, made his debut in a one-mile turf race at Gulfstream on March 13 and finished eighth of 12, but beaten just 3 1/4 lengths.

“He’d been going for quite a while; I had a lot of training into him,” said Attfield. “He just didn’t know what was going on in the race, until the last little bit.”

Check Your Soul obviously benefited from his opening experience as he rallied to prevail by a nose at Keeneland.

And, after following up with his 2 1/2-length score in the Wando under new rider Patrick Husbands, Check Your Soul is on the road to the June 26 Queen’s Plate.

“There was an allowance race next week but he needed to run right now,” said Attfield. ‘This puts us in a much better position.”

Attfield will be looking to win the $1 million Queen’s Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, for a record ninth time.

His other leading Queen’s Plate candidate is Good Better Best, who was a game winner of a first-level allowance over 1 1/18 miles at Keeneland on April 22.

Artic Fern may experiment on turf

Artic Fern, sidelined just days before last year’s Queen’s Plate, made an auspicious return to action here last Saturday.

With his regular rider David Clark in the irons, Artic Fern was a comfortable two-length winner of a difficult seven-furlong allowance race.

The victory, which was Artic Fern’s fourth in a row, came in his first start since last June and yielded a Beyer Speed Figure of 91.

Artic Fern, a homebred owned by Gustav Schickedanz and trained by Mike Keogh, had wintered well in North Carolina but then took sick after shipping up to Woodbine.

“I lost close to a month with him,” said Keogh. “I thought he’d be right there on Saturday, but that he might get a little tired. Once he switched leads, he was gone.”

While Artic Fern has made each of his five starts on Polytrack, he could be trying a new surface in his next start.

“I’d like to try him on turf, maybe in the Connaught Cup,” said Keogh. “He trained well on turf as a 2-year-old.”

The May 29 Connaught Cup, a seven-furlong race which offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $150,000, is the first scheduled turf stakes of the meeting.