07/01/2004 11:00PM

Bison City standout no riddle


There is nothing enigmatic about Eye of the Sphynx, who will be the odds-on choice at Fort Erie in Sunday's $250,000 Labatt Bison City Stakes.

Eye of the Sphynx is, purely and simply, a winner, and she will be very difficult to deny in the 1 1/16-mile Bison City, which is the second jewel in the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies and the headliner on a program that also includes the $100,000 Daryl Wells Sr. Memorial Stakes.

In four starts, including her career debut at Keeneland April 22, Eye of the Sphynx has been on a roll. It culminated in an impressive 4 1/4-length victory in the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks on June 6.

The 1 1/8-mile Oaks was the first leg of the triple tiara, which concludes with Woodbine's $250,000 Wonder Where over 1 1/4 miles on turf Aug. 1. A $350,000 bonus awaits a filly who sweeps the series.

Eye of the Sphynx, owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, won Woodbine's Grade 2 Selene three weeks before the Oaks after capturing the seven-furlong Fury in her second career start there May 9.

The Oaks, however, represented her best performance yet, as Eye of the Sphynx was taken back off the lead when she was headed on the backstretch before moving powerfully on the far turn to leave the issue beyond doubt.

Frostad believes the change in racecourses is unlikely to hamper Eye of the Sphynx because she handled sloppy going at Keeneland and both mud and slop at Woodbine before catching her first fast track in the Oaks.

"She obviously runs on anything," said Frostad, who adds that Eye of the Sphynx also should be equal to any pace scenario that comes her way here.

"She's a pretty tractable filly," said Frostad. "She'll do anything you want her to do."

Todd Kabel, the leading rider at Woodbine, retains the mount on Eye of the Sphynx.

And, just in case her rivals expected any relief in the weights department, this year's runnings of both the Bison City and Wonder Where will be the first under scale-weight conditions, which always have been the terms for the Oaks.

Trainer Reade Baker, who fielded three of the five entrants in the Oaks, will invade the Fort with another trio for the Bison City. Touchnow, runner-up in the Oaks, will be joined by On Account of Me and Silky Tresses.

Owned by George Farr, Touchnow was making her fifth career start in the Oaks and came up with her best effort to date, finishing nine lengths clear of My Vintage Port.

"When the winner moved that day, she kind of left us flat-footed behind horses," said Baker. "That won't happen again."

On Account of Me, owned by the No. 1 Stable, disappointed in her first two career races at Woodbine this spring, both in sloppy going.

"I was really high on her. She just never showed up," said Baker, who watched On Account of Me finished fourth both at seven furlongs and 1 1/16 miles.

On Account of Me got her act together in her third and last start, however, wiring a decent group of maiden opponents over 1 1/16 miles.

Silky Tresses, owned by Jim Hindman, remains a maiden after five career starts and is going turf to dirt for the Bison City after finishing third over 1 1/16 miles at Woodbine June 6.

"On Account of Me can show speed, and Silky Tresses can, too - you can put her wherever you want," said Baker, who sent out Synchronized to register a major upset in the 1999 running of the Bison City.

My Vintage Port, Canada's champion 2-year-old filly after closing out her campaign with three consecutive stakes wins at Woodbine, was making her fourth start of the year in the Oaks.

Ken Parsley, who trains My Vintage Port and is a co-owner of the filly along with Rick Pettifer, is hoping the addition of blinkers will aid her cause here.

Regular rider Jono Jones was aboard for My Vintage Port's major Bison City tune-up last Saturday, when she went five furlongs in a 1:00.60 with the blinkers.

"Hopefully, they'll keep her more focused for the whole race," said Parsley. "The Oaks distance wasn't a problem for her, but she's been running spotty.

"She ran to the turn there, stopped running, then ran again down the stretch."

Rounding out the field is Vividly, a homebred owned by Stronach Stable.

Vividly, who won her maiden over 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream March 19, had been gearing up at Adena Springs Farm with her new trainer Sean Smullen, and will be making her Canadian debut.

Richard Dos Ramos has picked up the mount on Vividly, who shipped in Tuesday and breezed four furlongs in a bullet 47.60 seconds over the main track.