Riding the River defeated Big Band Sound by a neck in the King Edward Stakes.

Riding the River defeated Big Band Sound by a neck in the King Edward Stakes.

Michael Burns Photography

Big Band Sound Tuning Up in Play the King

Favorite in important Woodbine Mile prep has finished second in past four starts.

Big Band Sound, second in four consecutive Woodbine stakes races since this spring, looks to finally break through as the 3-1 morning line pick in the $200,000 Play the King Stakes (Can-IIT) Aug. 26.

The seven-furlong grass event, an important prep for the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-I) Sept. 16, attracted an evenly matched field of 11. Won last year in an 18-1 upset by Havelock by a head over the returning Riding the River, the race is the eighth on the Woodbine Sunday card with a scheduled 4:44 p.m. EDT post.

Kendel D. Standlee's Big Band Sound shortens up a bit for trainer Dan Vella in the Play the King. In his most recent start, the one-mile King Edward (Can-IIT) June 24, the 5-year-old son of Bernstein rallied along the rail at mid-stretch but came up a neck short to Riding the River.

Big Band Sound, carrying 117, gets a six-pound break from the co-top weighted Riding the River in the Play the King. Big Band Sound also ran second in the Connaught Cup (Can-IIT) on turf in May and was runner-up in the Vigil (Can-III) and Jacques Cartier on Polytrack earlier in the spring.

Tyler Pizarro retains the mount on Big Band Sound, who departs from post 2.

Smokey Fire, who won the Play the King by a neck in 2010, is pegged as second choice at 4-1. Like Riding the River, Jim Dandy Stable's 7-year-old gelding carries 123 pounds for trainer Sid Attard.

In his first start in nearly 20 months, Smokey Fire sizzled in upsetting the Highlander (Can-IIT) at 17-1 odds, getting six furlongs on the Woodbine lawn June 24 in a time of 1:07.77. But he may have bounced a bit in his next start, finishing fifth while evening out late in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance heat while odds-on Aug. 6.

An eight-time winner from 16 starts, Smokey Fire leads the field in earnings with $743,123. Eurico Da Silva has the call once again on the gray son of Smoke Glacken, and they break from post 9.

Riding the River, who came back from his King Edward victory with another neck tally in the 1 1/16-mile Nijinksy (Can-IIT) July 22, is next on the morning line at 9-2. Trained by David Cotey for Dominion Bloodstock, HGHR Inc., and Linmac Farm, the 5-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding came from well out of it in last year's Play the King to narrowly miss at 28-1 odds. Todd Kabel is back aboard.

Two others, Right One and Artic Fern, figure to attract support.

Ghislaine Head's French-bred Right One (6-1), third by a neck to Turallure in last year's Woodbine Mile, invades from Saratoga Race Course once again for trainer Christophe Clement. The 6-year-old Anabaa gelding has dropped six straight since winning the Jaipur (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park in July 2011.

Stakes winner Artic Fern (8-1), owned by Gustav Schickedanz and trained by Michael Keogh, scored a neck triumph in the allowance race in which Smokey Fire was heavily favored earlier this month at 15-1 odds.

Sam-Son Farms Grand Adventure (12-1) makes his first appearance since running 10th in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) Nov. 5. Patrick Husbands rides for trainer Malcolm Pierce.

$200,000 Play the King Stakes (Can-IIT, Race 8, 4:44 p.m.), 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Bear Tough Tiger (FL), Q Welch, 117, R Baker, 20/1
2. Big Band Sound (KY), T Pizarro, 117, D J Vella, 3/1
3. Artic Fern (ON), J Stein, 117, M Keogh, 8/1
4. Grand Adventure (KY), P Husbands, 117, M Pierce, 12/1
5. Clement Rock (FL), O Moreno, 117, M E Casse, 15/1
6. Right One (FR), L Contreras, 119, C Clement, 6/1
7. Stormy Rush (KY), J M Campbell, 117, R L Attfield, 10/1
8. Riding the River (KY), T Kabel, 123, D Cotey, 9/2
9. Smokey Fire (ON), E R Da Silva, 123, S C Attard, 4/1
10. Jaguar Paw (KY), S R Bahen, 117, R Halden, 30/1
11. Delegation (KY),  J V Bridgmohan, 113, M E Casse, 12/1