09/07/2012 3:39PM

Woodbine: Trainers scramble after turf course is closed for training

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Michael Burns
Artic Fern is being pointed to the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Management’s decision to cancel turf training here Friday, with a weekend of major turf racing set for next Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16, perplexed a number of trainers who had planned workouts on the surface.

But Sean Gault, senior manager of racing surfaces for the Woodbine Entertainment Group, was convinced that he made the correct call.

“The turf was still soft this morning from the rain on Tuesday,” Gault said. “We had 46 millimeters (more than 1.8 inches) of rain.

“The humidity stayed high, and the track just didn’t dry out. If they’d trained on it, the horses probably just would have punched into it, and the damage would remain for other sessions.”

Mike Keogh, who had planned to work Artic Fern and Sure Would on the turf training course, switched to the dirt training track after hearing the news early Friday morning.

Artic Fern, who is pointing to the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 16, worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 under exercise rider Paul O’Sullivan.

“He came his quarter in 23.80,” said Keogh, who trains the homebred 5-year-old gelding Artic Fern for Gus Schickedanz.

Artic Fern is coming into the Woodbine Mile off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Play the King over seven furlongs of turf here Aug. 26.

Tyler Pizzaro, who had ridden Artic Fern to victory in the Play the King prep, opted to stick with another of his regular mounts, Big Band Sound, and Keogh recruited Justin Stein for the Play the King.

Big Band Sound won the Play the King, with Artic Fern finishing 4 1/2 lengths back after pressing the pace.

“I think now that Justin’s ridden him, he’s got a better idea about him,” said Keogh, who also believes the mile of turf will be within Artic Fern’s scope.

“I thought he ran very well when he was fourth in last year’s King Edward, in his first try at a mile on the grass.”

Stein was aboard Sure Would for a five-furlong breeze of 59.80.

Sure Would, a Schickedanz homebred who is a three-quarter sister to Artic Fern, is eyeing the Natalma, which will be run on the Saturday card here along with the Summer.

Both the Natalma, for 2-year-old fillies, and the Summer, for 2-year-olds, are Grade 2, one-mile turf races that are worth $250,000 and are part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In series.

Sure Would has run once, finishing a closing second with Stein in the irons in a seven-furlong turf race for maiden fillies here Aug. 18.

“She blew the break and just got in all kinds of trouble,” Keogh said. “She just bullied her way through horses.

“Justin was convinced the mile would be even better for her.”

Rutherford Rd works on dirt track

Trainer Mike Doyle had planned to work Rutherford Rd on the turf training track but instead sent her out to work five furlongs in 1:00.60 and gallop out six furlongs in 1:15.20 on the dirt training track under jockey Jermaine Bridgmohan.

Rutherford Rd had shown little when making her first three starts on Polytrack but woke up with a front-running victory under Bridgmohan in a seven-furlong turf race for maiden fillies here Aug. 24.

“She’d worked well all spring on the Poly, but she just didn’t run any good on it,” said Doyle, who trains Rutherford Rd for Bill Graham.

Working on the training track for the Summer was Best Play, who breezed in 1:01.20 under jockey Alex Solis.

Best Play, trained by Mark Frostad, has raced once, finishing second in a maiden race over seven furlongs of turf here Aug. 19.

Strong works for Attfield duo

Forte dei Marmi and Hollinger breezed five furlongs in 59.80 on the main track here Friday while going in company with a third horse from the Roger Attfield stable.

Regular rider Solis was aboard Forte dei Marmi, with jockey Jesse Campbell doing the honors aboard Hollinger.

“I’d liked to have worked them on the turf; it would have given me a better idea,” Attfield said. “But they couldn’t have worked any better, that’s for sure.”

Attfield has been considering Hollinger for the Woodbine Mile and Forte dei Marmi, winner of the Grade 2 Sky Classic over 1 1/4 miles of turf here Aug. 19, for the same day’s Grade 1, $500,000 Northern Dancer.

But Attfield also has Musketier, owned by the same connections as Forte dei Marmi, on tap for the Northern Dancer over 1 1/2 miles of turf and will have some decisions to make in coming days.

“I don’t know whether Hollinger will run in the Mile,” said Attfield, who will be discussing that matter with the 5-year-old gelding’s co-owner and breeder, Bob Harvey.

“I still might do a U-turn and run there with the other horse [Forte dei Marmi]. Alex and I are going to sit down with the past performances and work it out.”

Solis also was aboard Archer Hill, who breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 on the main track here Friday in preparation for the Summer.

“It was perfect,” said Lisa Lewis, who trains Archer Hill for William Schettine. “He sat off another horse, and finished in front of him.

“He did it the right way, galloped out strong, and looked really good.”

Archer Hill will be looking to double up in the Summer after coming from off the pace under Solis to capture a 1 1/16-mile maiden turf race for statebred fillies at Saratoga on Aug. 2.

“I took him to Saratoga because I wanted to run him long, and they weren’t running long here yet,” Lewis said. “I knew he’d be a horse who wanted a route of ground.”

“The race there was for New York-breds. I knew it would fill, and I knew he’d be tough to beat in there.”

Lewis pointed out that both Notacatbutallama, runner-up to Archer Hill that day, and West Hills Giant, who finished fourth, came back to graduate in their next starts.

“It was a live race,” she said.

“Obviously, [the Summer] is going to be a big step up, and we’ll have to cut back to one turn, but he has a good turn of foot and obviously it’s a long stretch here.”

◗ The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will be holding its monthly meeting at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the third-floor Champions area. Non-members are welcome to attend.