05/04/2012 11:48AM

Woodbine: Vella liking Big Band Sound


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Danny Vella’s barn, although a little shy in the win column, has been live this year with two victories and a total of 10 in-the-money finishes from 18 starters heading into Friday’s Woodbine program.

But, as Vella says, “There’s nothing the matter that a few winners won’t cure.”

And a horse who could pump up the stable in a big way is Big Band Sound, who will be among seven entrants in the Grade 3, $150,000 Vigil Stakes at seven furlongs here Sunday.

Big Band Sound, a 5-year-old horse who made his first five starts for trainer Dale Capuano south of the border, raced once here for trainer Laurie Silvera before being purchased privately and moved to Vella’s barn.

“He came to me in good condition, and his form looked good,” said Vella. “He just has kept improving his form, and improving physically.”

Big Band Sound made a winning debut for Vella in a $40,000 claimer for nonwinners of two and later knocked out his first allowance condition, with both races coming in Polytrack sprints.

Wintering with Vella at Nelson Jones Farm in the Ocala area, Big Band Sound won his second allowance condition over five furlongs on turf at Tampa Bay Downs and then finished a closing fifth at the same distance in the Turf Dash Stakes on Feb. 18.

Big Band Sound upped the ante in his last start here April 7, however, as he finished a closing second here in the six-furlong Jacques behind the front-running Essence Hit Man, who is back for the Vigil.

“I thought my horse’s race was brilliant,” said Vella. “I think Essence Hit Man, when he’s on his game at six furlongs on Polytrack, might be one of the best horses in North America.

“I believe the seven furlongs will be to our advantage. When he won at 6 1/2 furlongs here last year, he wasn’t running out of gas.

“I also still believe he might a touch better on the turf. We’ll have to see later on.”

Alpha Bettor sharp in year’s debut

Alpha Bettor, another hard-knocking older horse in the Vella stable, was sharp in his seasonal bow, finishing second behind the talented Hunters Bay under third-level allowance terms at seven furlongs.

“I think Hunters Bay just has a little better turn of foot at seven furlongs,” said Vella. “We’re not a seven-furlong horse; we’re a two-turn horse.”

The next two-turn race for the division is the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse, a May 26 stakes that offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000.

“We’ll keep an eye at the Eclipse, but we’re going to be selective,” said Vella, who also is a part-owner of Alpha Bettor as a member of the Bulldog Racing group.

Field Commission nears return

Vella’s barn could get another boost with Field Commission, who won the Vigil and was Canada’s champion sprinter in 2009, slated to return here later this month after missing all of last season.

“He had bone bruises, and being that he’s been so good to us we gave him the time off, instead of trying to rush him back.”

Field Commission is in Florida at the Solara Farm of Ed Seltzer, who owns the 7-year-old horse in partnership with Vella.

“Everything they tell me says he’s doing great,” said Vella.

Strait of Dover eyes stakes

Strait of Dover, who has crossed the finish line first in each of his three starts for Vella but was disqualified on the first occasion, could make his stakes debut here in next Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Marine.

“We’ll keep an eye on the field,” said Vella. “This is a pretty good horse. I think he’ll get two turns, but this would be his first two-turn race and I want it not to be too tough.”

Strait of Dover was traveling seven furlongs, his longest test to date, when leading throughout under regular rider Justin Stein in a first-level allowance race that was his seasonal bow here April 22.

“I had him too sharp first time. I was a little worried when that other horse [runner-up Patrioticandproud] came up to him.”

Heading the prospective lineup for the $150,000 Marine are Incredicat and Classic Bryce, the 1-2 finishers in the 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes here April 21.

Perfect Tay on hold

Conspicuous by his absence from the Marine nomination list is Perfect Tay, who finished fourth in his third career start and first on Polytrack in the Wando.

Perfect Tay was claimed for $75,000 from a second-place finish over 1 1/16 miles on turf in his debut at Gulfstream.

Racing over the same distance and surface but in straight maiden company next time out, Perfect Tay was a game winner for trainer Lorne Richards and the True North Stable of Keith Johns.

But Richards, who spent the winter at Palm Meadows, was disappointed after watching Perfect Tay finish 4 3/4 lengths back in the Wando.

“I’ve got to get him sorted out before I run him against those kind of horses again,” said Richards.

“Nothing’s wrong, but nothing’s right. He just hasn’t been the same horse since coming up here.

“Until I’m 100-percent happy with him he’s in a holding pattern.”

◗ A funeral service was held Friday for Mary Di Marco, wife and assistant to trainer John Di Marco, who died suddenly at her home on Monday at age 65.

Mrs. Di Marco’s survivors also include her sons Frank, John, and Ralph, all of whom work on the racetrack

◗ Woodbine archivist and Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame co-chairman Tom Cosgrove would like to hear from any friends or relatives of the late Pat MacMurchy, who trained the Canadian champion Titled Hero in the mid-1960’s and is being inducted into the Hall of Fame in the “Legend” category.

Cosgrove can be reached at (416) 213-2113.