09/02/2005 11:00PM

A Bit O'Gold has hit his stride


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - There cannot be a better advertisement for this week's Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society's annual yearling sale than its millionaire graduate A Bit O'Gold, who is the 120-pound highweight in Monday's Grade 2, $334,200 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap at Woodbine.

A Bit O'Gold should be favored in the Niagara, which will be contested at 1 1/2 miles on the grass. It is a prep for the $2 million Pattison Canadian International here Oct. 23, a Grade 1 event that is on A Bit O'Gold's itinerary.

A Bit O'Gold took a few starts to come around this year, but he put it all together in his third start off the sidelines July 1, taking the Grade 3 Dominion Day Handicap by 6 1/2 lengths. Most recently, A Bit O'Gold won the Grade 2 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes at 1 3/8 miles on turf by two lengths, earning his second straight Beyer Speed Figure of 104.

Trainer Catherine Day Phillips raved about A Bit O'Gold's five-furlong work in a sizzling 57 seconds on the main track Aug. 27 under jockey Jono Jones.

"He didn't even look like he was going as fast as he was, and he galloped so strong - seven-eighths in 1:24 and change," Day Phillips said. "He's a brilliantly fast horse, but even for him it was amazing. He came back to the barn and never turned a hair."

Last year, A Bit O'Gold won his first turf outing, going 1 1/2 miles in the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Breeders' Stakes.

Last Answer captured the allowance prep for the Niagara under apprentice Corey Fraser and looks to be in peak form. He was previously third in the Chinese Cultural Centre, finishing a neck behind his more accomplished stablemate Mobil.

"He's really come around this year as a 5-year-old," said trainer Mike Keogh of Last Answer. "He was a little light when he first came here in the spring, and we spent some time putting some weight back on him. He really seems to be enjoying his work."

Keogh said he is hoping for some give to the ground Monday. "He would love a soft turf," Keogh said. "He won the Chief Bearhart Stakes over yielding turf last year."

Also in the nine-horse field is Strut the Stage, who has won the last two runnings of the Niagara but has finished off the board in his four starts since winning last year's edition.

* Saratoga shipper Doc O Dynamite and Victoria's Boy head Monday's supporting feature, the $106,000 Silver Deputy Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds.