07/17/2004 11:00PM

Bit O'Gold turns tables on Niigon

Michael Burns
A Bit O' Gold (#4) collars Niigon to win the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes by a head at Fort Erie on Sunday.

FORT ERIE, Ontario - A Bit O'Gold rallied strongly on the outside to score by a head here Sunday in a stirring renewal of the $500,000 , putting an end to Niigon's chances for a Canadian Triple Crown.

Niigon had defeated A Bit O'Gold by three-quarters of a length in the first legof the series, the 1 1/4 mile Queen's Plate at Woodbine June 27.

The 1 3/16 Prince of Wales was run over a track that went from fast to sloppy following a mid-afternoon downpour.

The Prince of Wales was billed as a two-horse race and the estimated 6,500 on hand here Sunday were treated to a thrilling match.

Niigon, ridden by Robert Landry, had stolen a march on A Bit O' Gold when opening around the final turn in the Queen's Plate.

Jono Jones, who rides A Bit O' Gold, had vowed to avoid a repeat of that scenario.

"I wanted to keep him in my sights," said Jones, in the winner's circle. "This horse has a good turn of foot, and he's a fighter."

It had appeared, however, that the Prince of Wales would be a rerun of the Queen's Plate when Niigon opened up a 2 1/2 length lead into the far turn and A Bit O'Gold took up the chase.

"When Niigon opened up at the three-eighths pole, I thought it was game over," Jones admitted. "But my horse kept digging.

"This horse is a super horse. He has a huge heart, and tremendous ability. He just went and got him."

Niigon still led by a length at the eighth pole and battled back when engaged by A Bit O' Gold.

"I inherited the lead and I was by myself for a long period of time," said Landry. "And, he kind of lost a little focus inside the eighth pole.

"Then, when Jono came up to him, he jumped back on the bridle, but Jono's horse had a little bit more momentum at the time."

Niigon appeared to be drift out through the stretch drive and finished in the four-path

"I was coming out to (A Bit O'Gold), so my horse would be able to see him and compete," said Landry.

"He's a great horse. Today, he got beat.

"That's not taking anything away from him. He tried real hard."

His Smoothness, the third-place finisher, ended 15 1/4 lengths behind Niigon. Completing the order of finish were Just in Case Jimmy, Copper Trail, Picadilly Bay and One to Celebrate. The final time was 1:57.69.

A Bit O' Gold, who races for The Two Bit Racing Stable and is trained by Catherine Day Phillips, earned $300,00 for his fifth victory in eight career outings, bringing his career bankroll to $863,199.

* The fields for the day's two $100,000 supporting features were decimated when both 1 1/16 mile races were taken off the turf due to heavy recent rainfall here.

The decision was announced Saturday and led to the scratching of half the 12-horse field for the International Turf Cup and five of the nine entrants for the Ernie L. Samuel Memorial.

Le Cinquieme Essai, winner of the Prince of Wales two years ago, scored by 1 1/4 lengths as the 2-1 second choice in the Turf Cup, which was run over a "fast" track. Just Watch Me finished second and the favored Longship was third.

Ginger Gold romped by 13 lengths as the 2-5 choice in the Samuel Memorial, which was run in sloppy going. Clubay was second and Robotica third.

Steven Bahen rode both winners.