07/25/2013 4:00PM

Woodbine: Tiller might send Jade Dragon, Langstaff to Vice Regent Stakes

Michael Burns
Jade Dragon wins the Deputy Minister Stakes on Wednesday for his first stakes score.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Bob Tiller was not surprised that he saddled the winner of Wednesday’s $125,000 Deputy Minister Stakes, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds. But Tiller had sent out two horses for the race and expected to greet Langstaff, not Jade Dragon, in the winner’s circle.

Jade Dragon, ridden by Tyler Pizarro, had pressed the moderate pace of Canuspellpatience and made his move on the far turn en route to a one-length victory as the 5-1 third choice.

Langstaff, sent off at 1-2, had trailed early in the field of four and finished determinedly under Luis Contreras to be clearly second-best.

“It was a strange track over there last night,” Tiller said as he watched horses go through their paces on the dirt training track here Thursday. “I think it was a jockey’s race. The speed didn’t really show up, and Tyler moved early. I was disappointed that Langstaff didn’t win, but you’ve got to be happy when you’re 1-2.”

Jade Dragon became a stakes winner Wednesday for the partnership of Frank Di Giulio, Anthony D’Onofrio, and John Peri and earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 83. The horse improved his record to 3-2-3 for earnings of $202,814 from 10 starts.

“It was nice to see him win,” Tiller said. “I bought the mare for them in Kentucky.”

Tiller had purchased Advanced Green, the dam of Jade Dragon, for $50,000 at the Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale. Advanced Green ran just once, winning a six-furlong maiden race Aug. 5, 2007.

“She circled the field and won going away,” Tiller said. “But the morning after the race, she flipped on a hot-walking machine and broke her knee.”

Langstaff has a record of 3-2-0 from 5 starts for owner Rolph Davis and became a stakes winner in the restricted Bold Ruckus over six furlongs on turf June 8.

“I think he’s a better horse on the turf,” Tiller said.

Langstaff, a $62,000 purchase at the local yearling sale, is eligible for the yearling sales stakes program, which offers six stakes Aug. 28. But Tiller will look at the $125,000 Vice Regent, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds here Sept. 1 that also will be the next target for Jade Dragon.

Royal North: Nikkis Smartypants tries turf

Tiller will look for his fourth stakes win of the season Sunday when he sends out Nikkis Smartypants for the Grade 3, $150,000 Royal North, a six-furlong turf race for fillies and mares.

Nikkis Smartypants, owned by Ben Hutzel, will be trying grass for the first time in the Royal North while making her second start of the season. She scored under second-level allowance terms at six furlongs here June 15.

“I’ve been aiming her toward the Royal North,” Tiller said. “Her breeding suggests she might like turf, and I have no reason to believe she won’t. She has a nice, good foot on her.”

Roxy Gap, last year’s Royal North winner and Canada’s champion older female and female sprinter, will be making her 2013 debut Sunday for trainer Mark Casse.

The Royal North also has attracted the shippers Sensible Lady, trained by Alan Goldberg, and Cat Lore, conditioned by Michael Stidham. The locally based Why Katherine, Heavenly Pride, and Little River round out the field of seven.

Irish Mission rebounds to win allowance

Irish Mission, Canada’s champion 3-year-old filly and turf female for 2012, rebounded from a disappointing effort in the July 7 Dance Smartly Stakes to register a 9 1/4-length victory under jockey Gary Boulanger in Wednesday’s $89,400 allowance. The 1 3/8-mile turf race serves as a prep for the $100,000 Flaming Page, an overnight stakes scheduled for 1 1/2 miles on the E.P. Taylor turf course here Aug. 14.

“It was nice to see her get back on track,” said Mark Frostad, who trains Irish Mission for Robert S. Evans. “This will give her a little confidence.”

Frostad had been puzzled by Irish Mission’s seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“She was just flat that day; I knew she was flat in the paddock,” Frostad said. “I don’t know if it was the heat or what, but she just had an uncharacteristic off day.”

Frostad will look at the Flaming Page, but Irish Mission could have bigger fish to fry later in the meet.

“We have a lot of options for her,” said Frostad, who will look at turf races at 1 1/4 miles and beyond for his stable star. “We might even run her in the Northern Dancer.”

Irish Mission would be facing males in the Grade 1, $300,000 Northern Dancer at 1 1/2 miles on turf here Sept. 15, Woodbine Mile Day. Last year, Irish Mission finished fifth in the Northern Dancer while conceding age and experience to some top-class rivals.

Frostad also said Pyrite Mountain, who was nominated to both Saturday’s $125,000 Toronto Cup at Woodbine and to Tuesday’s $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, will make his next appearance here in the Aug. 18 Breeders’ Stakes. The $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, at 1 1/2 miles on turf, is the final leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Pyrite Mountain had run well on the main track here this spring, winning the 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes and running fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, but was a well-beaten seventh in the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate.

“He’s a better horse on the turf,” Frostad said.

Niigon’s Glory works for Prince of Wales

Niigon’s Glory breezed four furlongs in 47.40 seconds on the training track here Thursday under regular rider Steven Bahen in preparation for the Prince of Wales, run over 1 3/16 miles on Fort Erie’s dirt surface.

“He looked like he handled the surface well,” said Rob Landry, general manager of Chiefswood Stable, owner and breeder of Niigon’s Glory. “He acts good, got over it well. I don’t think the distance will bother him at all, especially being a Niigon. They’ll run all day.”

Landry was in the irons when Niigon won the Queen’s Plate in 2004, the last time the race was run on dirt. Niigon was well on his way to becoming a prominent Ontario stallion when he died last October.

Evil Kitten targets Etobicoke Stakes

Evil Kitten, who had been nominated for the Royal North, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 on the main track here Thursday.

“I’m going to wait for the Etobicoke with her,” said Nick Gonzalez, who trains Evil Kitten for the Tucci Stable of Carlo and Lou Tucci.

The $100,000 Etobicoke, a six-furlong overnight stakes for fillies and mares, is scheduled for Aug. 4 and would require a minimum field of five to be carded.

Evil Kitten has placed in stakes on turf and Polytrack, but would be looking for her first stakes win in the Etobicoke.