06/22/2004 11:00PM

Armata back with another Plate longshot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Queen's Plate, which will be run for the 145th time here Sunday afternoon, obviously is a race steeped in history.

But trainer Vito Armata will just be hoping that recent history repeats itself in this year's $1 million Queen's Plate when he saddles Archer Fleet for owners John Armata and Giuseppe Mazarese in the 1 1/4-mile fixture for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Armata sent out T J's Lucky Moon to take the 2002 Plate at 82-1, and while Archer Fleet's odds won't reach those heights he is unlikely to be less than 40-1.

Archer Fleet, an Ontario-sired colt by the 1998 Queen's Plate winner, Archers Bay, will be competing in the Plate after traveling around two turns for the first time in his latest start, which also was the case with T J's Lucky Moon.

In that May 21 race, Archer Fleet finished second to fellow Plate candidate Kent Ridge when he stretched out from five furlongs to 1 1/16 miles in a first-level allowance for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

"That was a key race for the horse, to see if he could go a little farther," said Armata. "It looked like he could.

"He'll try to follow in the footsteps of T J's Lucky Moon. He made it happen. We'll see if this one can make it happen again."

T J's Lucky Moon, who was owned by Molinaro Stable, had won a maiden race at 1 1/16 miles four weeks before the Plate.

Steven Bahen, who guided T J's Lucky Moon to his Plate triumph, rode Archer Fleet for the first time in his last start but won't be back for the Plate.

Bahen was committed to ride Will He Crow, another colt coming off a 1 1/16-mile maiden win, in this year's Plate.

Winter Whiskey happy on farm

While the spotlight has been squarely upon the Plate Trial winner, A Bit O'Gold, heading into Sunday's Queen's Plate, his stablemate, Winter Whiskey, has been relegated to relative obscurity.

Winter Whiskey, winner of the Swynford and Kingarvie at 2 and also considered a legitimate Plate candidate for trainer Catherine Day Phillips, pretty much ran himself out of the picture when he was soundly beaten in both the Queenston and Plate Trial.

"He's training at the farm, and he's delighted with himself," said Day Phillips. "He's doing much better. He's improved a lot."

Day Phillips did bring in Winter Whiskey to work five furlongs on the turf under regular rider Jono Jones last Sunday and plans a similar exercise on the main track this weekend.

If he works well enough, then Winter Whiskey could run in Thursday's $150,000 Achievement, a six-furlong handicap for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

"I'll leave it up to Jono," said Day Phillips. "If he thinks he's ready to go, he'll go."

Tiller pair works in company

Twisted Wit and Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk, a pair of Achievement candidates trained by Bob Tiller, worked five furlongs in company in 58.80 seconds on the fast main track here Wednesday. The works were the fastest of 20 at the distance.

Richard Dos Ramos was aboard Twisted Wit, while regular rider Dino Luciani piloted Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk.

Twisted Wit, winner of the seven-furlong Queenston, and Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk, third in the Queenston after winning the six-furlong Woodstock, both were on the Queen's Plate trail earlier this spring.

But Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk was eased when he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for the Marine, and Twisted Wit met a similar fate in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.

"They were both outdistanced their last starts, but they both had reasons why they were," said Tiller, who declined to elaborate.

Perfect Soul may go in Firecracker

Perfect Soul, who missed last Saturday's King Edward Breeders' Cup because of a cough, worked four furlongs in 48 seconds on the fast training track here Wednesday. Rachel Halden, assistant trainer to Roger Attfield, was aboard for the drill.

"I was just testing him," said Attfield. "He hasn't coughed for three days. It looks like he missed that race by about a week."

Attfield said Perfect Soul should make his next start in the Grade 2, $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap, a one-mile turf race at Churchill Downs on July 3.

Promontory injured but won't need surgery

Promontory, a Kentucky-bred colt who was one of the leading candidates for Saturday's Victoria Stakes off his impressive winning debut at 4 1/2 furlongs here May 23, suffered a fractured tibia in a subsequent workout.

David Bell, who trains Promontory for Pin Oak Stable, explained that the type of injury suffered by Promontory requires time off, but no surgery.

"It's an injury horses usually come back from really well," said Bell, adding that Promontory had been sent to the farm, in Kentucky, and will be out of training for approximately three months.

Nice spot for Sophia's Prince

Sophia's Prince, a stakes-placed 5-year-old gelding trained by John LeBlanc, appears to have found a likely spot here in Friday's allowance feature. The seven-furlong race, a third-level allowance/$80,000 optional claimer, has attracted a field of eight.

Sophia's Prince, owned by Joan Agro, comes off a strong second-place finish when competing at a similar level but over one mile of turf here June 12. Last year, Sophia's Prince finished second in both the six-furlong Highlander and seven-furlong Overskate.

Leading the opposition will be Mr. Epperson, a 9-year-old gelding with career earnings of more than $1 million.

Mr. Epperson, trained by Scott Fairlie, also faced this caliber last time out when he finished second in a six-furlong dash.

Queen's Plate candidates

A Bit O'GoldC. Day PhillipsJ. Jones
Alleged RulerE. CoatrieuxS. Callaghan
Archer FleetV. Armataundecided
Copper TrailJ. DayN. Somsanith
His SmoothnessJ. DayJ. McKnight
Just in Case JimmyR. AttfieldR. Dos Ramos
Kent RidgeM. CasseP. Husbands
Long PondM. CasseS. Elliott
Night SkyD. VellaJ. McAleney
NiigonE. CoatrieuxR. Landry
Picadilly BayJ. RossC. Montpellier
Silver TicketM. FrostadT. Kabel
Strike Em HardD. CoteyE. Ramsammy
Will He CrowT. ReganS. Bahen