11/24/2004 12:00AM

Be careful backing home team on road


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Ever since 1990 Canadian Triple Crown winner Izvestia disappointed at 5-1 in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Classic, many American handicappers have been skeptical of the merits of Canadian runners when they compete in stakes south of the border, and justifiably so.

This month alone, two Woodbine shippers ran in grass stakes at Churchill Downs, and both came up flat while being well backed in the wagering in their first start away from Woodbine.

Black Rock Road hadn't lost in three outings, all over the expansive E.P. Taylor turf course, when she was sent off at 3-1 in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere on Nov. 13. With the addition of blinkers, she showed more speed than usual and set the pace before folding in the stretch.

Last Saturday, Classic Stamp was the 8-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap. She had a good stalking trip under Pat Day, but finished fifth after appearing to struggle over the soggy ground.

There are many other examples of overbet Woodbine runners tanking in the United States.

Following a 10-length triumph here last November in the Display Stakes, Judiths Wild Rush was the 8-5 favorite in the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes at Delta Downs on Dec. 5. He was an even lower price in the Canadian pool, but failed to give his backers much of a thrill and was beaten nearly 22 lengths after running greenly.

Hour of Justice had also never competed outside the cozy confines of Woodbine when she went to Belmont for the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Handicap on Sept. 25. She seemingly fired her best, but could only manage third after being bet down to 5-2 from an 8-1 morning line.

Byron King, Daily Racing Form's Churchill handicapper, said he usually disregards underlaid Woodbine invaders.

"In general, I try to beat them if they are short prices," King said. "The ship is long for them, and many have limited experience shipping. It seems that most Woodbine horses rarely have to leave there, except the cheaper ones that go to Fort Erie or somewhere else."

King pointed out that some Canadian trainers traditionally fare well at Keeneland in the spring after wintering in Florida or Louisiana.

"It seems like every spring, [Mark Frostad] has a big meet at Keeneland, sometimes after he's given his horses a start or two at the Fair Grounds," King said. "Mike Keogh's big horse also won first time off the bench there this year," he said, referring to Wando.

Wando, the 2003 Canadian Horse of the Year and Canadian Triple Crown winner, won a grass allowance at Keeneland following a six-month layoff in April. His two previous efforts outside Ontario were disappointing. He was third at 2-1 in last year's Grade 3 Indiana Derby and 12th as a longshot in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Track bias report

Woodbine's main track has been noticeably biased on occasion this fall, and some horses who ran against the bias have come back to perform admirably.

The rail was dead throughout the week ending Oct. 3, when outside runners dominated the proceedings. The bias seemed strongest Oct. 3, when it impeded Canadian Gem, Synergistic Effex, and B. Nile, among others. Canadian Gem, fourth in the Grade 2 Mazarine BC Stakes that day, came back to capture an allowance at 7-1 before ending up second in the Glorious Song Stakes.

The inside two paths provided the preferred footing Oct. 20-22.

Oct. 20: The majority of the eight winners on the card raced close to the rail, with Brassy Light being the exception.

Oct. 21: Ablo outran the bias with a four-wide stalking trip to win his maiden and subsequently took the Coronation Futurity at 19-1. Highland Presence sprung a 28-1 upset with a rail-hugging trip in the fourth race.

Oct. 22: The bias wasn't at its most powerful, as several runners swung off the inside exiting the far turn to get home on top. The only winner to take the overland route all the way was Kain's Deed.

Oct. 29: The inside was the place to be. Wide runners who came back to run big included bias-buster Canadian Gem and Coltrane.

Oct. 30: Speed was dominant, as front-runners won eight of the 10 main-track events.

Nov. 6: The inside was good again. Devil Valentine and Silver Spear ran one-two with inside trips in the first race on the card, and both missed the board at 3-1 in last Sunday's sixth race.

Nov. 11: The rail was dead. Horses who got bogged down running along the inside included Unbridled Rose, Goldini, and Dr. Socrates.

Nov. 18-21: Outside runners dominated the proceedings, and many horses spun their wheels while running near the rail.