07/31/2007 11:00PM

Alezzandro beatable in Breeders'


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, which will be run for the 117th time at Woodbine on Sunday, anchors the Canadian Triple Crown. The 1 1/2-mile turf marathon is usually a good betting race, and this year's edition could have a vulnerable favorite in Alezzandro.

Alezzandro set the pace until deep stretch before being overhauled by Mike Fox in the Queen's Plate, the first Triple Crown race ever held on Polytrack. He led throughout the second leg on dirt, the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, and will be making his turf debut in the Breeders', which has been a difficult race to win on the front end.

Stalkers and closers have been dominant in the modern history of the Breeders'. No horse has led all the way in the 12 years since the race has been run on the E.P. Taylor turf course, which encircles the Polytrack. You have to go all the way back to Peteski in 1993 to find the last wire-to-wire winner.

If Alezzandro employs an aggressive approach, he figures to have company up front, although trainer Kevin Attard doesn't think the large colt needs the lead. Trainer Mark Frostad is planning on running two maidens, Storm the Castle and Walk With Kings, and the former will likely vie for the early lead.

Half of the 16 nominees to the Breeders' are maidens. Six maidens have competed in the last five runnings of the race, and only one hit the board - Are Limits, who was a distant second to Jambalaya in 2005.

Mike Fox has developed an effective stalking style, and should be forwardly placed. He was hard-ridden by Emma Wilson to win the Plate, and is coming off a flat fourth-place finish in the Prince of Wales. He appears to abhor the dirt.

Mike Fox faded to third after dueling up front over a yielding course the only time he tried turf, which came in the restricted Cup and Saucer Stakes last October. The handsome bay has a superb turf pedigree, being by Giant's Causeway and out of Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes winner Alexis.

Jim McAleney, who's nearing a return to riding after being injured in the spring, was aboard Mike Fox in the 1 1/16-mile Cup and Saucer.

"He was still immature mentally when he ran in the Cup and Saucer," McAleney said. "He was a little rank on the lead, which was costly. He took to the turf very well - he handled it wonderfully. He had shown enough talent to beat those horses, but he just needed some time to mature. As a young horse, I didn't think he had any distance limitations at all."

McAleney, who rode Sweetest Thing to victory in the 2001 Breeders', believes a horse must possess agility and stamina in order to be successful in the race.

"To win a race like the Breeders', I think a horse has to have athleticism," McAleney said. "It's key to have a horse who can settle down early and go at a nice, quiet pace, and then still have the air left to pick it up and finish well.

"Sweetest Thing was a long-winded, naturally athletic filly. She broke her maiden first time out going a mile and an eighth. Mentally, she adapted very quickly to racing, and she did everything that I asked her to do."

The Prince of Wales and the Toronto Cup, a nine-furlong turf stakes, have been the most successful Breeders' preps during the past five years.

Three of the last five Breeders' winners competed in the Wales - last year's winner Royal Challenger, A Bit O'Gold (2004), and Wando (2003). A total of 13 Wales starters came back to run in the Breeders' during the last five years, and aside from the three winners, one finished second and one third.

Nine runners went directly from the Toronto Cup to the Breeders' from 2002-2006. One was victorious, Portcullis in 2002, three finished second, and one wound up third.

If he rates kindly on Sunday, Mike Fox should be very tough, regardless of the course condition. Marchfield, a disappointment in the Plate and Wales, is a longshot possibility in his debut on turf, a surface for which he is nicely bred.