08/02/2007 11:00PM

Bell rings for round three


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sunday's $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, the third and longest leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, will feature the rubber match between the winners of the first two legs, Mike Fox and Alezzandro.

The 117th running of the 1 1/2-mile turf event at Woodbine drew eight other Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, including the blue-blooded Marchfield, who could have the best chance of posting an upset.

Mike Fox took the opening Triple Crown race here on the Polytrack, the $1 million Queen's Plate, under an aggressive ride from Emma Wilson. He faded to fourth after stalking front-running Alezzandro in the second leg, the Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie.

Trainer Ian Black said he was puzzled by Mike Fox's Wales performance.

"I honestly don't know how to judge it," said Black. "When we tried to go with [Alezzandro] at the three-eighths pole, he edged away and kept going. It was either the surface or ability, or a combination of both."

Black was content with Mike Fox's work around the cones over the main turf last Sunday, in which the colt closed about 20 lengths on two lesser runners. He said, though, that he is not convinced that Mike Fox, a son of Giant's Causeway, is a genuine grass runner.

"He seemed to travel over it okay, but most [horses] do when they're working," Black said. "The really good turf horses have the ability to throw 24 and 48, and then they quicken. Whether or not he has the ability to do that, I don't know."

Mike Fox wound up third after battling up front last year in his only grass start, the Cup and Saucer Stakes.

Alezzandro, who did not debut until May 13, finished a close second in the 1 1/4-mile Plate after surrendering a clear lead in deep stretch. He led throughout the 1 3/16-mile Wales, scoring by daylight under Todd Kabel, who was aboard when the colt worked in company over the main turf course last Sunday.

Alezzandro has never competed on the grass, for which he has little breeding, but trainer Kevin Attard has reason to believe that the surface switch won't be a problem.

"He looks no different to me on turf than on any other surface," said Attard. "So far, he's done everything I've asked him to do. He seems to be getting better. I like the fact that he's been training more relaxed heading into this race than before any other race, which will bode well going a mile and a half. If he continues to step up and improve, he should run a good race."

Attard believes Alezzandro can rate kindly just off the front end if somebody else is keen on taking control early.

"I don't think he needs the lead," Attard said. "He's a big, long-striding horse, who covers a lot of ground, and he's inherited the lead so far. He wasn't right on the engine when he broke his maiden, and he never got rank in his work the other day."

The Mark Casse-trained Marchfield never challenged in the Plate or in the Wales. He's very well bred for the grass on the dam's side of his pedigree, and should thrive over the unfamiliar footing, according to jockey Patrick Husbands, who was aboard when Marchfield, a son of A.P. Indy, prepped over the main turf last Sunday.

"When I breezed him the other morning, we just wanted to see how he'd go over it, and he handled it very nicely," said Husbands. "I was a little disappointed with him in the Queen's Plate, and we thought it was the sand in the Prince of Wales. I like him more on the turf."

Trainer Mark Frostad entered two Sam-Son Farm-owned maidens, the plodding Walk with Kings and front-running Storm the Castle.

American shippers It's a Danzig and Twilight Meteor are both capable turf milers with a chance.

Ice Bear, victorious in the June 24 Charlie Barley Stakes, is coming off a weak effort in the nine-furlong Toronto Cup Stakes. He was supplemented at a cost of $12,000.