05/25/2012 12:14PM

Woodbine: Stormy Lord seeks Connaught Cup repeat


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Stormy Lord goes for his second straight triumph in the $150,000 Connaught Cup Stakes Sunday at Woodbine. The seven-furlong turf sprint drew 10 others, and seems fairly wide open.

Stormy Lord put together a lucrative 2011 campaign, during which he won 4 of 7 starts and around $400,000. Aside from the Grade 2 Connaught Cup, he won the Labeeb Stakes, the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes, and the PTHA President’s Cup Stakes at Parx.

“He’s a very handy horse,” said trainer Ian Black. “He had a good season. He was in the right spots on the right day.

Stormy Lord made all the running en route to a three-length victory over soft ground in the 2011 Connaught Cup.

“It was pretty soft,” Black recalled. “They were talking about taking it off the turf at one point.”

Stormy Lord led before fading to sixth in his season opener, a nine-furlong allowance at Keeneland.

“It was a tough race,” said Black. “Maybe they were a little too good, or maybe he was a little short.”

Black said Stormy Lord has trained forwardly since his comeback, including a five-furlong turf breeze in 59.20 seconds last Sunday.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to judge him on the Poly, but he worked good on the turf the other morning,” said Black, who has enlisted Justin Stein for the mount.

Kentucky shipper Mutual Trust is racing at less than a mile for the first time. He captured the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat last summer in France, when he was trained by the legendary Andre Fabre.

Mutual Trust has started three times in North America for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Bill Mott, who is adding blinkers. He was fourth in a May 2 optional claimer at Churchill, after missing the board in two Grade 3 stakes at Gulfstream.

Stormy Rush returned from a one-year layoff to prevail in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance at Keeneland on April 18. He was a promising 2-year-old in 2010, during which he ran third in the Grade 3 Summer Stakes and fourth in the Grade 3 Bourbon.

Trainer Roger Attfield thinks the move to seven furlongs will agree with Stormy Rush, who has yet to compete over that distance.

“It should be just fine,” Attfield predicted.

Riding the River was transformed into a useful sprinter/miler on the grass last year. The highlight of his campaign was a narrow loss to Havelock in the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes. He never challenged in his season opener in an optional-claiming sprint on Polytrack.

Big Band Sound brings excellent recent Polytrack form to the table, having run second to 2011 champion sprinter Essence Hit Man in both the Grade 3 Vigil and Jacques Cartier Stakes. He has had some success going short on the lawn.

Trainer Mike Keogh entered Artic Fern and Welloiledmachine, who finished first and fourth in the prep for the Connaught. That allowance was taken off the grass before it was drawn.