08/01/2002 12:00AM

Automated another tough invader


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Shippers from the United States fared surprisingly poorly in stakes at Woodbine in 1999 and 2000. High-profile trainers like Bill Mott and Christophe Clement couldn't win at Woodbine during those years, but the tide began to turn in 2001, when American invaders began to hold their own.

This year, horses based south of the border have cut a swath through the local stakes schedule, and Kentucky-based trainer Tom Proctor is among those who have reaped the rewards. Proctor, who won the Dominion Day Handicap with the fast-improving Bonus Back, will be back in action here Saturday with Automated in the Grade 3 Royal North Handicap, a six-furlong turf dash for fillies and mares.

Automated has yet to win a stakes, although she did finish second in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar in 2000. She was a narrow winner of a five-furlong dash for $80,000 optional claimers on July 6 at Churchill Downs.

Jesus Castanon, who rode Bonus Pack in the July 1 Dominion Day, has the call on 5-year-old Automated.

Rounding out the lineup for the $164,550 Royal North are Quick Blue, Mysterious Affair, La Vitesse, Bold Engagement, Leading Roll, and Marisa Go.

Quick Blue, trained by Linda Rice, ships in from Monmouth Park. Quick Blue won the 2001 Bison City Stakes at Fort Erie. Quick Blue has captured one of her four turf starts, the most recent of which was a second-place finish in a one-mile allowance at Monmouth.

Marisa Go upset Healing Knowledge and Mysterious Affair when she won her first stakes here June 29 in the six-furlong Zadracarta. A late-blooming 5-year-old, Marisa Go is owner-trainer Carlo Fuoco's only horse. He said he was caught off guard by her stakes triumph.

"I thought she might be third behind Mysterious Affair and Healing Knowledge," Fuoco said. "It was surprising that she beat those two."

Fuoco recalled that, unlike in her previous race, "she was out in the clear with no traffic problems, and that it worked out well."

Fuoco believes the Royal North is made to order for Marisa Go, as long as the turf is firm.

"She's in good order," he said. "This race suits her perfectly. The distance is ideal. Hopefully, we won't get any more rain, because she doesn't like soft turf, or a soft main track. She has very small feet."

* Extend and Catch the Ring are the protagonists in Saturday's supporting feature, the $105,000 Belle Mahone Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.

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