04/25/2011 12:31PM

Woodbine: Wildcat Marie hits new heights

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Michael Burns
Wildcat Marie, with Tyler Pizarro up, wins the Whimsical.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Wildcat Marie, a $40,000 claim last summer, boosted her stock considerably by winning last Saturday’s $155,500 Whimsical, defeating Hooh Why and Indian Apple Is.

“She beat a Grade 1-winning mare, and a Sovereign champion,” said Marty Drexler, who has 14 stalls here and another eight horses at Fort Erie with assistant trainer Maree Richards. “It’s all good.”

Hooh Why was the Grade 1 winner, having captured Keene­land’s Ashland two years ago. Indian Apple Is was the Sovereign Award champion, having been voted Canada’s top female sprinter last year.

But neither mare could mount much of a challenge to Wildcat Marie, who scooted to the front after breaking from the inside under Tyler Pizarro and never was seriously threatened as Hooh Why faded to fifth and Indian Apple Is rallied for third money in the six-furlong Whimsical.

“I was a little bit surprised,” said the 40-year-old Drexler, who trains Wildcat Marie for owners Joe, Annemarie, and Dennis Baldesarra and Bob McBain. “The owners put her in with the idea of picking up a bit of black type, and now she’s a Grade 3 winner.”

Drexler, who had selected Wildcat Marie after Joe Baldessara had approached him with an eye toward claiming a horse, concedes that the decision to run the 4-year-old filly in the Whimsical rested with the owners.

“I thought it would be reasonable to run her for $62,500, in the second-level allowance condition, or in a third-level allowance,” said Drexler. “It’s pretty tough for these sprinting mares. You don’t know what spot is going to fill.”

Wildcat Marie should put her new credentials to the test in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hendrie, a 6 1/2-furlong race for fillies and mares here May 14.

“Honestly, I think she was a work or two short for this race,” said Drexler, who wintered Wildcat Marie with Darlene Hayes at nearby Hillsborough Stable and brought her in to the racetrack on Feb. 15.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle, the way the weather was. She’s the kind of horse that needs to train on good surfaces.

Drexler, who had raced here before but made the move from Assiniboia Downs for good in 2009, was winning the richest race of his career in the Whimsical. His only previous six-figure score came with Weather Warning, in the 2007 Manitoba Derby.

Fifty Proof wins year’s debut

Fifty Proof, an Ontario-sired gelding who was competitive with Grade 1 turf horses here last year in the Northern Dancer and Canadian International, was a sharp winner of his seasonal bow last Friday.

Competing under second-level allowance terms over seven furlongs of Polytrack, Fifty Proof was prominent throughout under Justin Stein and scored by a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths.

“He’s versatile,” said Black, noting that Fifty Proof could remain on the main track for the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Eclipse here May 28. The Grade 2 King Edward, a one-mile turf race here June 25, also could be on Fifty Proof’s agenda.

Black hopes to be back at Keeneland on Friday to saddle Rahy’s Attorney for the Grade 2, $150,000 Elkhorn at 1 1/2 miles on the grass.

Winner of Gulfstream’s Grade 3 Pan American at that same distance in his last start, Rahy’s Attorney stopped over at Keeneland along with several other Black trainees.

Rachel Halden, who is in charge of Black’s Kentucky division, sent out Rahy’s Attorney to breeze four furlongs in 47.20 seconds on Saturday.

“I just hope it stops raining down there,” said Black. “I wouldn’t want to run him if the turf’s a foot deep.”

Emma-Jayne Wilson, who rode Rahy’s Attorney for the first time in the Pan American, has the call for the Elkhorn.

Southdale working through injury

Southdale breezed four furlongs in 47.40 seconds at Keeneland on Sunday and is nominated to the Grade 3 Vigil, a seven-furlong race here May 8.

“He quarter-cracked behind again,” said Black. “We patched it, and it held together. We’ll have to give him one more work and see how it is.”

Southdale, a homebred 5-year-old who races for Rod Ferguson, won a first-level allowance sprint in his seasonal debut here last spring and then became a stakes winner in the Eclipse.

Grand Style entered at Keeneland

Grand Style, who is a candidate for the Woodbine Oaks, has been entered in a first-level allowance race over 1 1/8 miles of turf at Keeneland on Wednesday.

Owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Grand Style began her career with Rusty Arnold at Saratoga but raced here three times last fall for trainer Michael Doyle and won the $252,000 Princess Elizabeth at 1 1/16 miles.

After closing out her campaign here with a fourth-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie, Grand Style rejoined Arnold at Palm Meadows and finished a creditable fifth in her seasonal debut, Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland at the same distance.

Grand Style is scheduled to return to Woodbine for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies that will be run on June 5.

Marko service planned

Shawn Kennedy, Woodbine’s racetrack chaplain, is planning a memorial service for Bill Marko, with the time and place to be announced.

Marko, who won the Sovereign Award as outstanding trainer in 1982 and 1983, collapsed and died in the backstretch kitchen last Saturday afternoon at age 73. He had retired in 1999.

The cause of death is believed to have been a heart attack.

Marko’s 500-plus winners and 48 stakes winners included Frost King, who was Canada’s champion 3-year-old male in 1981 and horse of the year, champion older male, and champion turf horse the following season. He also owned Frost King in partnership with Ted Smith.

Marko also was the original trainer of Deputy Minister, who was undefeated in six starts before being sold and moved to trainer John Tammaro.

Deputy Minister won Sovereign Awards as horse of the year and champion 2-year-old male and an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male in 1981.

Frost King was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1986 and Deputy Minister in 1988.

Fraud Squad, as champion sprinter, and Prince Avatar, a 2-year-old male in whom he also owned an interest, also were Sovereign Award winners for Marko in 1983.