05/27/2003 11:00PM

Arco's Gold on odd road to Plate

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer John Ross has won two of the last four Plate Trials, with Catahoula Parish in 1999 and Shaws Creek last year, but both horses disappointed him in the Queen's Plate.

Ross trains one of the leading nominees for this year's Plate Trial, which will be run here Saturday, but instead finds himself on a different path to the June 22 Plate.

Arco's Gold, who entered the season as one of the premier candidates for the $1 million, 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, wintered in Florida and was looking to make his seasonal bow in the seven-furlong Queenston here May 3. But the colt got sick and did not start until May 17, running a distant third in the 1 1/16-mile Marine.

"It was disappointing," said Ross. "He had a very good winter, then arrived here and the horse gets sick on you. He missed workouts and a key race.

"But he ran good in the Marine and he got a lot out of it. I know he's going in the right direction now."

Ross had cause for optimism here Wednesday, after sending out Arco's Gold to work a strong seven furlongs in 1:25.80 under regular rider Constant Montpellier.

Arco's Gold's workmate was Brattothecore, who was clocked in 1:26 under jockey Jake Barton in what was her final major tune-up for the June 8 Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

While Arco's Gold is a possibility for the Victoria Park, an open 1 1/8-mile race here June 8, which is the final stakes prep for the Plate, Ross is considering a radical alternative.

"He might go right to the Plate," said Ross. "I might be able to work this horse along, and have him 110 percent for Plate Day. "But I'm certainly going to keep the Victoria Park in the back of my mind, at least."

Brattothecore not right in Fury

Brattothecore suffered her first defeat in four career starts when fourth in the seven-furlong Fury on May 4. Brattothecore opened her 2003 campaign with an allowance win at six furlongs.

"For the Fury, she was 'horsing' [in season]," said Ross. "Whether that was to blame or there was a little bit of a bounce, I don't know. But, she's totally training so much better now. Everything's on target for her."

Wild Whiskey drills bullet work

Wild Whiskey drilled five furlongs in a bullet 59 seconds on Wednesday under jockey Jim McKnight. The colt was sidelined by a recurring foot problem after finishing fourth in his 2003 debut in the April 11 Jacque Cartier.

"I've wanted to try this horse on turf," said Ross, who is pointing Wild Whiskey for the June 22 Nearctic.

The $250,000 Nearctic, a six-furlong grass race, is the next sprint stakes opportunity for older males here. The next main-track sprint stakes for older males is the 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture on July 19.

Road warriors

The gap in the schedule for older male sprinters is one reason why top local sprinters Wake at Noon and Cheap Talk ran in New York State on Monday.

But the goal of the trips south for the two could not have been more different. Wake at Noon competed in the Grade 1, $750,000 Met Mile at Belmont, while Cheap Talk ran in the $35,000, six-furlong George W. Barker for New York-breds at Finger Lakes.

Wake at Noon finished a distant last at 50-1 in a field of 10 while Cheap Talk came from off the pace to win by a neck as the 1-2 favorite.

Wake at Noon ran last in the Met Mile for the second consecutive year. "He ran down a little bit behind," said trainer Abraham Katryan. "I guess he couldn't go with the big boys over there, but he came back okay."

Cheap Talk, a 4-year-old, was making his first road trip. "He needed to run somewhere," said Bob Tiller, who trains Cheap Talk and is a co-owner of the gelding along with his assistant, Tom Lottridge. "We were happy to get the money, and go home. He got bounced around leaving the gate, and the track was carrying speed all day."

Perfect Soul eyes King Edward

Perfect Soul, second in Pimlico's Grade 2 Dixie last time out for trainer Roger Attfield, worked four furlongs in 49.20 on the training track Wednesday and is scheduled to make his next appearance here in the June 15 King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap.

The King Edward, a 1 1/8-mile turf race, is a Grade 2 with a purse of $300,000.

Small Promises, Extend work

Small Promises, Canada's champion older filly or mare in 2002, and Extend, one of her stakes-winning stablemates, also tuned up for Attfield here Wednesday.

Both Small Promises, who worked four furlongs in 48.3, and Extend, who was clocked in 59.60 for five furlongs, are slated to run in the $125,000 Ontario Matron on June 7, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.

* Joe Talaga, host of the weekly radio show "At the Post", will host a free 90-minute handicapping seminar at 10:30 a.m. here Saturday in the second-floor International Room.