06/06/2004 11:00PM

A Bit O' Gold vs. history next

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A Bit O' Gold left no doubt that he's the "now" horse for the Queen's Plate, showing an impressive turn of foot on the final turn before drawing off to win the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial by 3 1/4 lengths at Woodbine Sunday.

Yet, A Bit O' Gold will be going against the grain of recent history on June 27, as he looks to become the first Trial winner since Alydeed in 1992 and the first Coronation Futurity winner since Norcliffe in 1975 to win the Queen's Plate.

Trainer Catherine Day Phillips would prefer to focus on the present, as A Bit O' Gold earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 96 in the Trial and remained perfect in two starts at the distance, the other coming in the Coronation.

"I thought he ran super," said Day Phillips, who also is a shareholder in The Two Bit Racing Stable, the syndicate that owns A Bit O' Gold. "He relaxed nicely down the backstretch. He was a little wide but he stayed out of trouble and quickened nicely.

"The final fractions, I thought, were very good and solid. And, he would have got a lot of fitness out of that race."

A Bit O' Gold, who wintered in Florida with long-term plans on the $1 million Plate, had started only once this spring before the Trial, finishing second in the seven-furlong Queenston here May 8.

Day Phillips sees no reason why A Bit O' Gold wouldn't be suited to the Queen's Plate's 1 1/4 miles, a distance that all contestants likely will be trying for the first time.

"The way he handles himself, I definitely think it's within his grasp," said Day Phillips. "He's got speed if you need speed, but you don't have to use it.

"He's pretty versatile," she said. "You can put him where he's comfortable, inside or outside."

Day Phillips added that A Bit O' Gold came out of the Trial in good order and it will be business as usual leading up to the Plate.

"He's pretty laid back," said Day Phillips. "He'll go back in school in the paddock, and school in the gate. He'll stick to the same routine."

Winter Whiskey to cool aspirations

The Trial verdict was not favorable for Winter Whiskey, the other Plate hopeful in the Day Phillips barn, who was beaten by 33 3/4 lengths as the seventh-place finisher in the field of eight.

It was the second dull effort in as many starts this year for Winter Whiskey, who had finished last of seven, beaten 22 lengths, in the Queenston.

"I think we'll have to settle down with our Plate aspirations," said Day Phillips.

"I was expecting significant improvement off the Queenston, a race we could go forward from, and we didn't get that.

"We'll regroup, freshen him up, and try to get back on track with him. He's been training great, but weight-wise he's a bit light."

Last year, Winter Whiskey won two stakes and $225,093 for Ten Goal Racing Stable.

Dance Smartly next for Inish Glora

Inish Glora won a pair of stakes and $359,667 last year in a six-race campaign that netted her the Sovereign Award in the filly-mare turf category.

But if the early returns are any indication, Inish Glora may be better than ever this year at age 6. Inish Glora captured last Saturday's Grade 3, $310,750 Nassau for her second win in as many starts this year.

"She certainly seems that way," said Mac Benson, who trains Inish Glora for Bob Costigan.

At this point last year, Inish Glora had yet to see action after suffering what Benson termed "a little mishap" while in training at Payson Park.

"She slipped and fell in the paddock and hurt her pelvis," said Benson, who at one point had feared the injury could be career-ending. "But, she got over it."

Inish Glora's next major target is the Grade 3, $150,000 Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares here July 17.

"She's had two hard races," said Benson, who says he believes the six weeks between starts could be to Inish Glora's benefit. "Tentatively, she'll go right to the Dance Smartly. If I see the need to run her in the prep, I could."

Oaks candidates work

Nashinda, a 3-year-old filly whom Benson trains for George Strawbridge Jr., breezed five furlongs in a bullet 58 on the fast main track here Sunday.

David Clark was aboard for the drill, which was Nashinda's final major tune-up for Sunday's $500,000, 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

Eye of the Sphynx and Silver Bird, the one-two finishers in the Grade 2 Selene here May 23 and also leading candidates for the Oaks, worked six furlongs on the fast main track here last weekend.

Eye of the Sphynx owned by Sam-Sam Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, went in 1:14 under regular rider Todd Kabel Saturday. Eye of the Sphynx went in company with stablemate Burst of Fire, a Queen's Plate nominee who was clocked in 1:14.80 under exercise rider Catherine O'Brien.

Silver Bird, owned by Jim McAlpine and trained by Reade Baker, went in 1:14.60 Sunday under regular rider Jim McAleney.

Touchnow, a Baker-trained Oaks candidate owned by George Farr, breezed six furlongs in 1:15.60 under Patrick Husbands on Sunday.