05/12/2002 11:00PM

Work proves better than race for 'El Prado'

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The plan had called for El Prado Essence to prep for last Sunday's George C. Hendrie Handicap in an allowance race at Woodbine on April 28.

But when that card was canceled in midstream because of deteriorating track conditions, and the Hendrie prep later was rescheduled for May 3, trainer Audre Cappuccitti was forced to reevaluate her position.

"I wasn't going to run her back in eight days," said Cappuccitti, who also owns El Prado Essence in partnership with her husband, Gordon. "So I worked her, after she didn't get to run, and she worked real good."

El Prado Essence used that May 4 trial, in which she went six furlongs in 1:13, as a springboard to what was probably her best career effort in the Hendrie.

"I knew she was in good order," said Cappuccitti, the morning after experiencing the sweet smell of success with El Prado Essence, who benefited from a heady ride by Todd Kabel.

"And I knew there was a ton of speed, but I never dreamed she'd draw off like she did. She was awesome."

Cappuccitti is not sure of her next move with El Prado Essence, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old who has started just 18 times in her career.

"Looking at the way she ran, and with Todd not even asking her, she may go two turns," said Cappuccitti.

El Prado Essence has been very effective at seven furlongs on the main track. Her only attempts beyond that distance have come in one-turn miles on grass, which would not appear to be her preferred surface.

Lil Personalitee's never been better

Kabel and Cappuccitti also were a team in last Saturday's Eclipse, where Dream Launcher finished a good third while making just his second start of the season following a lengthy absence.

But Kabel's choice turned out to be an expensive one in the short term as he gave up the mount on Lil Personalitee, whom he had guided to a second-place allowance finish that served as his stepping-stone to Eclipse success.

Trainer John Cardella secured an able replacement in Patrick Husbands, the leading rider at the meeting. And the partnership came through as Lil Personalitee, who was claimed for $62,500 here Aug. 4, 2000, recorded his first stakes victory for the California Stable of owners Martin, Herbert and Lawrence Tenebaum.

Lil Personalitee ran three times for Cardella that year, ending a runner-up twice and third once.

"Then I noticed a little pressure in his ankle," said Cardella, adding that X-rays revealed a chip that was removed surgically in late October. "He was in real good shape after that."

Last year, Cardella, sent out Lil Personalitee to win 2 of 12 races and $127,319. And judging by the early returns in 2002, Lil Personalitee should have little difficulty eclipsing that total this season.

"He had a good winter," said Cardella. "I brought him in the first of February, and got him ready. He just seemed to be a better-looking horse all spring than he was the year before. He's just turned 5; I think this will be his best year."

Lil Personalitee, who had fought off a foot problem with the help of blacksmith Bill Anthoulakis in the week leading up to the Eclipse, could make his next appearance in the Connaught Cup, a $150,000 turf race here May 25.

Classic Mike emerges

Classic Mike, who had faltered as the odds-on choice in his first two starts this year, thrust himself into the Queen's Plate picture with a solid off-the-pace score in a 1 1/16-mile allowance for 3-year-olds and upward race here Saturday.

"I think it was a better race than it looks on paper," said Reade Baker, who trains Classic Mike. "I probably didn't have him fit enough, to get out of the go-to-the-lead mode - he'd worked kind of slow."

Classic Mike, who was making his first start beyond seven furlongs, did not immediately respond to the new rating tactics employed by jockey Jono Jones.

"Jono had a lot of trouble settling him into the first turn," said Baker. "And the horse moved quickly when he did move; that had to be an awfully quick quarter-mile.

"I'd prefer he runs it down the lane, but he still got the job done."

Classic Mike is slated to contest the 1 1/8 mile Plate Trial here June 1 and, all being well, will proceed to the 1 1/4 mile Queen's Plate here June 23.

Wolverine, Baker's other hopeful for the $1 million Plate, is entered in a seven-furlong allowance here Wednesday.

* Mountain Beacon, considered a Plate candidate for Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad, finished a well-beaten sixth behind Classic Mike in his local debut. "He came up with a bit of mucus in his throat, and lungs," said Frostad. "We're treating it; hopefully, he'll be fine."

* Ford Every Stream, who remained undefeated in two starts for Sam-Son and Frostad when taking a mile and 70-yard allowance race in his local debut here May 3, could continue his march to the Plate in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes here Saturday.

* Dancethruthedawn breezed five furlongs in 59.80 seconds last Saturday in preparation for Friday's Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff. Stablemate Strut the Stage, was timed in 1:00.20 prepping for Saturday's Dixie at Pimlico.