08/26/2011 1:10PM

Woodbine: Stormy Lord auditions for Woodbine Mile in Play the King

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Ian Black has been through a rough couple of weeks with injuries leading to the retirement of Rahy’s Attorney and to an extended leave of absence for Fifty Proof.

On Sunday, the Black barn will be looking for some solace when Stormy Lord runs in the Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King.

The Play the King, a seven-furlong turf race, is the major local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 18.

“One of the reasons we’re running here is to see if that makes any sense,” said Black, who conditions Stormy Lord for David Willmot’s Kinghaven Farm and the Hat Trick Stable of Doug Murphy and partners.

Stormy Lord, a 4-year-old who was bred by Willmot, had a solid turf campaign last year which included a win here in the 1 1/8-mile Toronto Cup and a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Stakes at 1 1/2 miles.

After wintering with Black at Payson Park, Stormy Lord returned to action here with a front-running win over seven furlongs of soft turf in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup.

An attempt to rate Stormy Lord in the six-furlong Highlander proved to be a failure, as the gelding finished last of 10, but he rebounded with a smart score from just off the pace in the seven-furlong Ontario Jockey Club.

That race came on July 13, which means that the Play the King will be Stormy Lord’s first outing in more than six weeks.

“He ran well fresh here in the spring, and he’s breezed as well as he usually does,” said Black.

Stormy Lord, who is perfect in his four career outings over seven furlongs of turf, has drawn post 5 in the 12-horse Play the King field.

Jim McAleney, who has been aboard for Stormy Lord‘s last four wins and 12 of his last 13 appearances, will do the honors.

Well-bred 2-year-old makes debut

Crushin Hard, a 2-year-old who is a full brother to Prince of Wales and Breeders’ Stakes winner Pender Harbour, will make his debut for Black in Sunday’s fourth race.

Crushin Hard, knocked down for $23,000 at the select yearling sale, drew the No. 1 post in the field of 11 for the seven-furlong maiden race.

“He acts like he wants to go long,” said Black, who conditions Crushin Hard for John Colterjohn and Hugh Sutherland, the father of jockey Chantal Sutherland.

“He’s had lots of works; he’s progressing. This is a place to get him underway.”

Crushin Hard, whose latest work was five furlongs in 1:01.60 here last Sunday, will be ridden by Slade Callaghan.

Live and Love may try Seaway

Live and Love, who was sent to Black last month by owner Bill Casner, is an interesting addition to the stable.

Bred in Kentucky, the 4-year-old Live and Love had won her maiden at Golden Gate and finished third once in her first 11 outings but made short work of first-level “B” allowance rivals in her local debut at seven furlongs.

Live and Love’s Beyer Speed Figure for that win was 83, equaling her career best.

“We were trying to get a nonwinners other than for her but they never would fill, so we ran her in the ‘B’ and she won quite nicely,” said Black.

“The owners would really like to get her stakes-placed, so we’ll have a look at the Seaway and see how it’s coming up.”

The Seaway, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares, offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000.

Heading the prospective lineup is Embur’s Song, currently based at Saratoga with trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Grade 3 Hendrie at 6 1/2 furlongs and the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Matron in two trips to Woodbine this season.

Others eyeing the Seaway include Ariana D, who was the runner-up here in last Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Belle Mahone, and Amiable Grace, who would be returning to her surface after running fourth in last Sunday’s Belle Geste over seven furlongs of turf.

Crown Path preps for Vice Regent

Crown Path, who was placed second through a disqualification in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders here Aug. 7, breezed five furlongs in a leisurely 1:03.60 here Friday morning.

Regular rider Jesse Campbell was aboard Crown’s Path, who worked in company with older stablemate Mobthewarrior in preparation for next Sunday’s Vice Regent.

The Vice Regent, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds, also is on the agenda of Celtic Conviction, who had finished second to Pender Harbour in the Breeders’ but had his number taken down.

Another leading Breeder’s candidate is Queen Street Beach, who is undefeated in three starts, including the restricted seven-furlong Deputy Minister in his latest appearance here July 26.

Virus creates horse shortage

Woodbine’s racing program has been experiencing some turbulent times recently.

A virus which has been making the rounds of the backstretch has taken its toll, particularly on the 2-year-old population.

Not only the juveniles currently ill but also those who have recovered but lost critical training time could impact future programs.

Wednesday’s card, which had been shortened to seven races due to a lack of entries, wound up being scrapped after the fourth race due to a violent storm.

Thursday’s eight-race card was conducted with 52 entrants and concluded with Woodbine’s second three-horse race in less than a week.

The eighth race, which had programmed with a field of eight, was taken of the turf and had been reduced to four. One of those entrants was scratched at the gate.

There could be light at the end of the tunnel, provided that the weather cooperates, as 104 horses were entered for Sunday’s 10 races.

◗ Monday’s Labor Day card will feature the usual sextet of $125,000 stakes for products of the local yearling sales.

The 6 1/2-furlong Muskoka, for 2-year-old fillies; 6 1/2-furlong Simcoe, for 2-year-old colts and geldings; 1 1/16-mile Algoma, for fillies and mares; 1 1/16-mile Elgin, for colts and geldings; six-furlong Kenora, for 3-year-olds and upward; and one-mile Halton, a turf race for 3-year-olds and upward, are the offerings.

◗ The selected sessions of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society will take place in the Woodbine Sales Pavilion on Sept. 5 beginning at 7 p.m. and on Sept. 6 beginning at 2 p.m. The open session will be conducted on Sept. 10 with a 2 p.m. start.