08/10/2011 12:32PM

Woodbine: Spider Rock still spry at age 8


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Spider Rock is the type of racehorse who has commanded no headlines but plenty of respect from horsepeople and horseplayers.

On Friday, Spider Rock will be seeking his 13th victory while making his 28th career start in a $50,000 claiming race for 3-year-olds and upward.

Spider Rock is the senior member of the seven-horse field, at age 8. But the Kentucky-bred is the third choice in the morning line, at 7-2, off his game win for $40,000 in his seasonal debut.

“He’s amazing,” said Steve Attard, who trains Spider Rock for Dennis Morrison and Karin Schmidt.

“He’s won his first race of the year every year we’ve had him. He’s an easy horse to get fit – he just loves to do it.

“This year we were making fun of him, saying he was 8 going on 2.”

Spider Rock, bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, debuted at age 4 and compiled a record of 1-2-2 from 6 starts that year for trainer Sean Smullen.

After beginning his second campaign with an unproductive two-race stint for trainer Michael Sedlacek in New York, Spider Rock returned to Woodbine and closed out his light campaign with back-to-back wins in $10,000 conditioned claiming races.

By then Spider Rock had caught the attention of Morrison and Schmidt, who campaigned the talented sprinter Gregorian Chance from 1998 through 2000.

“I went to check the horse over for them, at Adena Springs, and he looked okay,” said Attard.

“But I said they’d have to understand that the horse had gone through his conditions, and that it would get a lot tougher now.”

The going did get tougher, but so did Spider Rock.

After winning his debut for his connections at the $20,000 claiming level in the spring of 2009, Spider Rock has since added eight more victories at claiming levels ranging from $12,500 to $40,000 and at the first allowance condition.

After a nine-start campaign in 2009, Spider Rock raced seven times last year and made a rather belated 2011 debut here July 2.

“There’s no reason he couldn’t have raced more – there’s not really anything wrong with him,” said Attard.

“But, these owners just love their horses. They always bring them in late.”

Spider Rock also enjoys special status here in the Attard stable.

“When you take him out to graze, and try to bring him in before he’s ready, he’ll go crazy,” said Attard.

“He comes in when he’s good and ready. That’s why he has his own personal hotwalker.”

As for Thursday’s race, Attard expects Spider Rock to deliver his usual honest effort.

“Seven furlongs is the perfect distance for him, on Polytrack,” said Attard, who tried Spider Rock at the same distance on turf on two occasions last September and watched him record one third-place finish.

“They say he doesn’t like the dirt, but I’ll never find out.”

Guipago going for milestone

Guipago has put together some formidable credentials through his 29-start career, with a pair of stakes wins among his five victories and 15 in-the-money finishes.

On Saturday, Guipago will be looking to vault past the $500,000 earnings mark in the With Approval.

The $100,000 With Approval, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and upward, is an overnight stakes that attracted a field of eight.

Guipago, an Ontario-sired 5-year-old horse who races for the Fieldstone Farm of Ron Delmas, is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Nijinsky, a Grade 2 race run over 1 1/8 miles on yielding turf.

“That was a salty group, but he ran his race,” said Carlos Grant, assistant to Guipago’s trainer, Analisa Delmas, while adding that the horse might not have been at his very best that day.

“We just went back to the drawing board, and did a little work on him. We’re very happy with the way he’s coming into this race.”

Guipago had recorded his first win of the season in his start before the Sky Classic, scoring over 1 1/8 miles on firm turf while competing under third-level allowance terms.

And, regardless of the outcome, the With Approval will serve Guipago as a good lead-in to the Halton, the one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward that will be one of six $125,000 stakes here Sept. 5 for products of the local yearling sale.

Guipago was purchased for $1,200 at the preferred session of the 2009 sale.

Sky of Grey sitting this one out

Sky of Grey, an Ontario-sired 4-year-old gelding who races for Fieldstone and Delmas, also was nominated to the With Approval but will not be participating.

“We’ll be looking at an allowance race for him, and he’s eligible for the sales stakes,” said Grant.

Sky of Grey, a $1,300 weanling purchase at the local winter mixed sale in 2008, won first crack out as a 2-year-old for a $32,000 claiming price.

But, after closing out that five-start campaign with a respectable fifth-place finish in the restricted Frost King Stakes, Sky of Grey did not resurface until this April.

“He went wrong as a 3-year-old, and we gave him the whole year,” said Grant. “We gelded him, and since we brought him back he’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Sky of Grey has compiled a record of 2-2-1 from 7 starts this season, winning out his restricted allowance conditions in 1 1/16-mile races and most recently finishing third in open first-level allowance company.

Those races all came over Polytrack. but Sky of Grey also showed an affinity for turf when he ran second to the stakes-winning Celtic Conviction in a 1 1/16-mile restricted allowance for nonwinners of three.

“He still runs like a baby, but he’s come back very, very good,” said Grant.

DeGannes shut out

Saturday’s $150,000 Ontario Debutante, a six-furlong stakes for 2-year-old fillies, attracted a field of six headed by Tu Einde We, impressive winner of the five-furlong My Dear in her only career start.

Runfor Ro, who closed from 12th place in that field of 14 to finish second after weaving through traffic in the stretch run, will be looking to turn the tables in her third career appearance.

But, while Runfor Ro is trained by Greg De Gannes, she will be running under the name of Danny O’Callaghan in the Ontario Debutante.

The Ontario Racing Commission, without offering an explanation, has informed the Woodbine race office that entries from De Gannes are not to be accepted until further notice.

Russ Fernandes, assistant manager of racing for the racing commission, said that no ruling would be forthcoming and that the commission would have no comment on the reasons for its verbal edict.

DeGannes also did not wish to comment.