07/24/2005 11:00PM

Another test, another success for A Bit O'Gold

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - After being Canada's champion 3-year-old last year and banking over $1 million in a seven-race campaign, A Bit O'Gold had the bar raised for him this season.

A Bit O'Gold proved his mettle in the handicap division by scoring a 6 1/2-length win in the Grade 3 Dominion Day over 1 1/4 miles on the main track here July 1, but he faced a course of a different color in Sunday's Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes.

The Chinese Cultural Centre, at 1 3/8 miles, attracted most of the top turf runners on the grounds, and although A Bit O'Gold had prevailed in his only turf outing, the $500,000 Breeders' over 1 1/2 miles last August, that success came against fellow Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

To make things just a little more interesting, A Bit O'Gold carried high weight of 124 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Chinese Cultural Centre.

But there was no stopping A Bit O' Gold, who was given a perfect stalking trip by jockey Jono Jones and took command in the stretch en route to a two-length victory.

"He's just in great order right now," said trainer Catherine Day Phillips. "He's shown that in his last two races; he's got so much heart and determination. I think the longer the races are, the more it gives him an advantage. He has such a relaxed running style."

Beyond the obvious benefit of a $205,920 payday, A Bit O' Gold's success Sunday makes the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International, a turf race that offers a purse of $2 million this year, a feasible long-term target. The road to the International includes the Grade 2, $300,000 Niagara, a 1 1/2-mile turf handicap here Sept. 5, and the Grade 2, $300,000 Sky Classic, a 1 3/8-mile turf race here Oct. 2.

"I'll give him a little bit of a break," said Day Phillips. "It makes sense to aim for those fall races. You probably won't see him in August."

In the meantime, Day Phillips and Jones have a couple of lucrative turf engagements on tap with Jambalaya and Invitational.

Jambalaya, who won his maiden over 1 1/16 miles on turf here June 12, repeated in a 1 3/8-mile first-level allowance on the same course July 14. That race was his tune-up for this year's Breeders', which will be run Aug. 7.

Invitational, who won her maiden over 1 1/16 miles of grass here July 7, is headed for Sunday's $250,000 Wonder Where, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Shock over Soaring Free's defeat

Sometimes the victor is overshadowed by the vanquished, which was the case when Awesome Action upset Soaring Free in the $81,800 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes here Sunday.

Soaring Free - Canada's Horse of the Year, champion turf male, and winner of the Grade 1 Atto Mile in 2004 - was sent off as the 1-9 favorite. But he was collared by Awesome Action in upper stretch and was beaten a half-length in the seven-furlong turf race.

The loss was just the second in 11 local turf outings for Soaring Free, with the other coming in the 2003 Atto Mile. On Monday morning, Mark Frostad offered a solution to the mystery.

"He entrapped his epiglottis," said Frostad, who trains Soaring Free for Sam-Son Farm. "He'll go for minor surgery. He won't miss much training."

Soaring Free's next major target is the Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King, a seven-furlong turf handicap here Aug. 27. The $1 million Atto Mile will be run Sept. 18.

Awesome Action, an improving 5-year-old gelding trained by Sue Leslie and ridden by Robert Landry, recorded his first stakes victory in the OJC and brought his career bankroll to $410,334.

The stakes win was the fifth of the meeting for Landry but the first for Leslie since Millennium Allstar captured the Achievement here in 2001.

Edenwold gives connections another stakes

There has been a decided lack of variety when it comes to the result of the 2-year-old stakes at the meeting, but there are at least a few parties who aren't complaining.

When Josie Carroll sent out Edenwold to win Saturday's $135,650 Colin at six furlongs, it was her third success in three male 2-year-old stakes here this year, all for owners Jim and Alice Sapara and with jockey David Clark aboard.

Vibank, currently sidelined, had won the five-furlong Victoria and the 5 1/2-furlong Clarendon for the same connections.

Clark, who also won two filly stakes aboard Wannatalkaboutme, has now won all five juvenile stakes at the meeting.

Edenwold had finished second to Vibank in the June 19 Victoria but passed on the July 9 Clarendon, opting instead for a maiden race the following day in which he proved victorious.

"We really didn't decide until the last minute that we would definitely go," said Carroll of the Colin. "It was fairly quick back off his last race. We wanted to make sure he'd bounced back out of that race well."

Edenwold obviously didn't lose any of his edge Saturday, and he displayed a rather unexpected turn of early foot after breaking from the inside post. Dueling throughout, with two horses just to his outside, a determined Edenwold prevailed by a length.

"I liked his tenacity," said Carroll.

Upcoming options for Edenwold include the $150,000 Vandal, a six-furlong race for Ontario foals here Aug. 14, and the $125,000 Simcoe, a seven-furlong race for colts and geldings that will be one of six yearling sales stakes run here Sept. 4.