08/10/2012 3:20PM

Woodbine: Turf racing comes back with Victoriana and Sky Classic


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Turf racing is scheduled to return to Woodbine next weekend following an 11-day break, and the welcome ongoing rainfall should have the course in lush condition for a fall campaign.

Turf stakes are scheduled for a both days, with the $125,000 Victoriana for Ontario-sired fillies and mares set for Saturday at 1 1/16 miles and the $250,000 Sky Classic for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/4 miles going Sunday.

The Grade 2 Sky Classic is positioned as a local stakes stepping-stone to the Grade 1, $1.5 million Canadian International here Oct. 14.

Another, the Grade 1, $500,000 Northern Dancer, over the same 1 1/2 miles of turf as the Canadian International, will be run Sept. 16.

Julie Bell, stakes manager for the Woodbine Entertainment Group, reports that the German invader Scalo is expected to arrive Tuesday for the Sky Classic.

“All being well, he’ll stay on for the Northern Dancer and the International,” said Bell.

Scalo, a lightly raced 5-year-old horse trained by Andreas Wohler, would bring imposing credentials.

As a 3-year-old, Scalo won France’s Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville and the Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne in Germany.

Last year, Scalo won the Group 2 Gerling-Preis at Cologne and finished second in Group 1 stakes at San Siro, Italy and back home at Hoppegarten.

Scalo’s first career win came over 1 1/4 miles and his other two at 1 1/2 miles. He opened up his current campaign with a fourth-place finish in a Group 3 at Dortmund going 1 1/4 miles.

Wohler has had six previous starters in the Canadian International, with his best results being second-place finishes with Simonas in 2004 and Paolini in 2001.

Lauro, his last Canadian International entrant, finished seventh in 2008 but came back three weeks later to win the Sky Classic when the race was run in late October over 1 3/8 miles on turf.

Lacara, a maiden 3-year-old filly trained by Wohler who has finished second in each of her three starts, is scheduled to accompany Scalo to Woodbine.

Hotep, Pender Harbour pointing to Sky Classic

Hotep and Pender Harbour, the two-three finishers in the Grade 2 Nijinsky over 1 1/8 miles of turf here July 22, are expected back for the Sky Classic.

Hotep, beaten a neck in the Nijinsky, also was nominated to the $250,000 Play the King at seven furlongs on turf here Aug. 26 as a backup.

“I don’t think we want to shorten him up, when we just got him relaxed going a mile and an eighth,” said Malcolm Pierce, who trains the 5-year-old Hotep for owner/breeder Sam-Son Farm.

Eye of the Leopard, who ended an eight-race drought when he won over 1 1/8 miles on turf here July 14, also could represent Sam-Son and Pierce in the Sky Classic.

“He had a real big work last weekend,” said Pierce, who watched Eye of the Leopard breeze five furlongs in 59.20 seconds here last Sunday.

Pender Harbour, an Ontario-sired 4-year-old trained by Mike DePaulo, finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Hotep after making the lead at the eighth pole.

That was the first turf defeat in three tries for Pender Harbour, who had captured the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and the one-mile Bunty Lawless for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward here last year.

Riding the River to shorten up

Riding the River, who upset the Nijinsky after capturing the Grade 2 King Edward over one mile on turf four weeks earlier, will be passing the Sky Classic with an eye toward the Play the King.

Dave Cotey, trainer and part-owner of Riding the River, has elected to cut the Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding back in distance with an eye toward the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 16.

Riding the River finished fifth in last year’s Woodbine Mile, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths.

Big Band Sound, fourth in four consecutive stakes races here this year for trainer Danny Vella, including the seven-furlong Connaught and the King Edward on the turf course, has been freshened with an eye toward the Play the King.

The list of nominees for the Play the King was released on Friday and also includes Artic Fern and Stormy Rush, the one-three finishers in the 6 1/2-furlong turf allowance prep for that stakes here last Sunday.

Smokey Fire, a very unlucky fifth there in the field of six, had won the Grade 2 Highlander over six furlongs on turf in his only previous start of the season here June 24 and also is looming as a formidable presence in the Play the King for trainer Sid Attard.

Griffith testing Spa waters

Trainer Ricky Griffith, who is enjoying a successful meeting here at Woodbine, will be represented by his first starter at Saratoga on Sunday.

Dan the Tin Man, coming off a sharp 5 1/2-furlong maiden score after breaking from the 1 post here July 8, will be carrying the colors of Griffith’s main client, the Debmar Stable of Steve Duffield and Glenn Harvey, in the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special.

“I breezed him on the training track, and he seemed to handle it quite well,” said Griffith, who sent out Dan the Tin Man to work five furlongs over that dirt surface on July 29 and Aug. 5. He’s really not a morning horse – he ran far beyond his breezing.

“If you’re going to give a race like this a shot, now is the time to do it.”

Javier Castellano will ride Dan the Tin Man in the Saratoga Special.

◗ The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will be holding its monthly meeting here Wednesday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the third-floor Champions area.