Updated on 09/17/2011 11:06AM

Alpha Saphire goes for Tiara jewel


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Malcolm Pierce will be looking to play giant-killer at Woodbine next Saturday when he sends out Strizzi in the Breeders' Stakes, in which Wando will be attempting to complete a sweep of the Canadian Triple Crown races.

But in the meantime, Pierce will be looking for success in the final leg of another series, as Alpha Saphire will start here in Monday's $250,000 Wonder Where.

The Wonder Where, a 1 1/4-mile turf race, is the finale of the Triple Tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies. No horse has swept the series, which was inaugurated in 1999 and offers a $350,000 bonus for such a feat.

Too Late Now, who became this year's hopeful after winning the 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks June 8, lost her shot at the sweep when finishing behind the dead-heat winners Brattothecore and Seeking the Ring in the 1 1/16-mile Labatt Bison City at Fort Erie July 1.

Brattothecore and Seeking the Ring will be back for the Wonder Where, while Too Late Now was not nominated for the race and is freshening up for a fall campaign.

In the meantime, Alpha Saphire has been lying in the weeds and comes into Monday's feature off a solid effort in the nominal Wonder Where prep, a 1 1/8-mile turf race here July 13 where she was beaten a nose by Kentucky-bred Dress to Impress.

"I thought she ran a good race," said Pierce, who trains both Alpha Saphire and Strizzi for Stronach Stable. "I was quite happy with it. She was just on the wrong end of the photo."

Alpha Saphire had performed creditably on turf in her first two outings last year, but then won her maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Her focus returned to grass this winter at Gulfstream, where she won a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles and finished ninth in the Gaily Gaily at 1 1/8 miles.

"I always thought she was much better on turf," said Pierce. "But I had to give her another try on the dirt, to see if she was Oaks-bound."

That test came here May 4 in the seven-furlong Fury, where Alpha Saphire finished last of six.

"Once we decided she wasn't Oaks-bound, we tried to map out a schedule to get her to the Wonder Where," said Pierce.

That turf plan began with the May 31 Alywow, in which Alpha Saphire finished sixth over an unsuitable distance of 6 1/2 furlongs, and ended with the Wonder Where prep six weeks later.

"It seems like she runs better when she's a little fresher," said Pierce, "but she's training well coming up to this race."

Bright spot in Benson barn

The fates have not been kind recently to trainer Mac Benson, who has watched top 2-year-old filly Nashinda and the once-highly regarded 3-year-old gelding Quiet Dare head south to Lexington undergo season-ending surgeries.

But one story that has had a happier outcome for the trainer is that of Inish Glora, a 5-year-old mare who is one of the leading contenders for Monday's $131,125 Victoriana Stakes.

Inish Glora, who had been based in British Columbia, had boarded with Benson after coming east with trainer Kathy Bremner the past two falls and moved into his barn for keeps last October.

"I took her to Florida last winter," said Benson, who spends his off-seasons at Payson Park. "And she was really doing good, until she had a little mishap down there."

Benson explained that his Payson practice is to turn out his horses for an hour after they have finished training each day, for some sun, fun, and unstructured exercise.

Inish Glora had been among the beneficiaries of the program, but then, one day, things went awry.

"She was galloping around the field," said Benson, "when her four legs went out from under her, and down she went."

The physical ramifications of that fall were not pleasant for Inish Glora.

"At one point, we thought she was even done racing," said Benson. "We were going to go ahead, and breed her, when she seemed to come out of it. Now, we're all right."

Inish Glora was more than a bit of all right when she won the Victoriana prep in her last start here July 20, and came back to work five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on the main track here Thursday.

Mobil breezes for W. Va. Derby

Mobil, second to stablemate Wando here in the Queen's Plate, breezed six furlongs in 1:13.40 on the main track Friday and is slated to run in next Saturday's Grade 3, $600,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park.

Robin Platts, a Hall of Fame jockey who now gallops horses for trainer Mike Keogh, was aboard for the drill.

"You can't ask for anything better," said Platts.

Mobil came back three weeks after the Queen's Plate to win the Toronto Cup over 1 1/8 miles of turf. Earlier this year, he won the Plate Trial over 1 1/8 miles of dirt.

Jorge Chavez will have the mount in the West Virginia Derby, which also goes at 1 1/8 on the main track.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will be holding its monthly meeting here Wednesday, beginning at 8 p.m. in the second-floor International Room.