05/24/2013 2:05PM

Woodbine: Something Extra seeks Connaught Cup repeat

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Michael Burns
Something Extra (above) will face Riding the River in the Connaught Cup.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Something Extra tries to win the $200,000 Connaught Cup Stakes at Woodbine for the second straight year on Sunday, when he will face last year’s Canadian champion turf male Riding the River in the seven-furlong turf sprint.

Something Extra started once during the winter – a closing second in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint. In his last race, he lost the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland by a nose after encountering traffic in the stretch under Julien Leparoux.

“It was bad racing luck,” said trainer Gail Cox. “Julien said he had a wall of horses in front of him, and he had to make a decision to go inside or out. He went out, and then he went in, and then out. The horse ran huge, and he loved the turf course there. He came out of it really well.”

Cox said Something Extra fractured a splint bone in last year’s Connaught. He was off until the fall, when he won the Mt. Sassafras and ran third here in another Polytrack stakes, the Grade 3 Kennedy Road.

Cox felt an easy winter/spring campaign was logical for Something Extra.

“He had such a light campaign last year that we wanted to run him through the winter a little bit,” Cox explained. “There’s not that many races for him on the turf. Five-eighths is a little short for him.”

Something Extra worked in company with Connaught Cup entrant Hotep over the turf training course last Sunday, when they both covered five furlongs in a bullet 59.40 seconds.

“He’s a little bit lazy on his own,” Cox said.

Riding the River is returning from an eight-month layoff. He captured a pair of Grade 2 stakes last year, the King Edward and Nijinsky. After running second in the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes in August, he capped his abbreviated campaign with a closing fourth in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

Trainer Dave Cotey said bone bruising forced Riding the River to the sidelines after the Sept. 16 Woodbine Mile.

“He had really bad bone bruises in his back ankles,“ Cotey said. “He was uncomfortable all year, and it got really bad before his last race. We gave him 150 days off. He’s going really well now. He looks good and is traveling beautifully, but my gut feeling is he’s going to be a little short for this race.”

New York-based trainer Michelle Nihei, a native of Calgary, Alberta, entered Artest and Upgrade in the Grade 2 event. Artest, victorious in the Quick Call Stakes last July at Saratoga, is exiting a third-place finish in an optional claimer at Keeneland.

Grade 3 winner Upgrade rallied for third behind Canadian champion sprinter Essence Hit Man in the Jacques Cartier Stakes on the Polytrack here April 27.

Trainer Reade Baker entered Bear Tough Tiger and Bear No Joke, who finished second and fifth in the Jacques Cartier.