08/05/2003 12:00AM

Arco's Gold taking another shot at Wando

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer John Ross already might have seen more than enough of Wando this year.

But that won't stop Ross from sending out Arco's Gold for Saturday's $500,000 Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine, where he will attempt to derail Wando's Canadian Triple Crown bid.

A victory in Saturday's Breeders', a 1 1/2-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, would be worth $550,000 in bonus money to Wando's owner, Gustav Schickedanz, including a $50,000 award as the colt's breeder.

As of Tuesday morning, Wando was slated to face six rivals.

Arco's Gold, owned by Alex and Steven DiIorio, was perfect in three starts as a 2-year-old, including a victory here in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity, in which he dead-heated with Wando's talented stablemate Mobil. He emerged the sole winner of that race following Mobil's disqualification.

After wintering with Ross at Classic Mile Farm, Arco's Gold returned to prepare for the Plate but fell ill and missed about three weeks of training plus a key prep race.

So Ross indeed was behind the eight-ball when Arco's Gold opened up his current campaign with a third-place finish, beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Wando, here in the 1 1/16-mile Marine.

Arco's Gold then took on Wando in the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, finishing 20 1/2 lengths back when he finished eighth here in the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate but just four lengths behind as the runner-up in Fort Erie's 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales.

"I was pretty happy with the Prince of Wales," said Ross. "I've been playing catch-up."

While Arco's Gold now appears to be on the upswing, he will face a new challenge as he tries turf for the first time in the Breeders'.

Arco's Gold had his first exposure to turf on the training course here last Wednesday, breezing five furlongs in 1:03.60 under regular rider Constant Montpellier.

"He did it by himself," said Ross. "Unless you hook him up head and head with another horse, he just does what he has to do.

"Montpellier said he felt good under him, the mechanics were good. That's the only thing we can go on.

"Everybody's got a lot of work to do to catch Wando, though. No doubt about it."

Also set to face Wando, who will have regular rider Patrick Husbands in the irons, are Strizzi (Emile Ramsammy to ride), Shoal Water (Todd Kabel), Colorful Judgement (Slade Callaghan), Parasail (Rob Landry), and Ballerina's Halo (Jim McAleney).