12/01/2011 2:21PM

Woodbine: Sutherland comes from California to ride Awesome Fire in Ontario Lassie


ETOBICOKE, Ontario — Awesome Fire and Evil Kitten finished one-two in a first-level allowance at a mile and 70 yards here at Woodbine on Oct. 28. But the uncoupled stablemates from the Nick Gonzalez barn both are well below the radar heading into Saturday’s $150,000 Ontario Lassie Stakes for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Awesome Fire is owned by Hugh Sutherland Jr., whose nom du course is Urban Fire Corp and whose sister, Chantal Sutherland, will be coming in from California for the mount.

“He originally bought the horse for her to ride,” said Martha Gonzalez, assistant to her husband, Nick.

Awesome Fire graduated second time out for a $40,000 claiming price at seven furlongs and then finished second in a first-level allowance at the same distance behind Casa Loma, who also is in the Ontario Lassie lineup.

Then, in her first-two turn appearance, Awesome Fire came from last place in the field of time to run down the pacesetting Evil Kitten by a length.

“She’s developed into a nice filly,” said Gonzalez.

Evil Kitten also scored second crack out in a $50,000 maiden claimer at seven furlongs but then was well beaten when facing open company in  both the Grade 3 Natalma at one mile on the turf and the Mazarine at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

“It took a little while to figure her out,” said Gonzalez. “We tried to take her back and rate her. Last time we let her just run, and do her thing.”

Awesome Fire and Evil Kitten both are scheduled to spend the latter part of the winter in Ocala, Fla., where Nick Gonzalez has set up a winter operation and will be racing at Gulfstream.

Rare local appearance by Sutherland

Sutherland, who opted to stay in California this year after returning to Ontario following from her winter campaigns there in recent seasons, has five mounts Saturday and has been named on Harrods Creek for the $175,000 Valedictory Stakes on Sunday’s closing-day program.

Her only other appearance at Woodbine this year came on June 26 when her seven mounts included third-place finishes in the Queen’s Plate aboard Pender Harbour and in the Grade 3 Singspiel with Windward Islands.

The Valedictory, which is the longest stakes race of the meeting at 1 3/4 miles, offers Grade 3 status for the first time this year but attracted a field of just six, which includes three other shippers in Afleet Again, Eagle Poise, and Getta Rhythm.