10/10/2003 11:00PM

Carotene ideal spot for Alpha Saphire


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Alpha Saphire, winner of the Wonder Where here at Woodbine on Aug. 4, appears to have located a very favorable scenario in Monday's $168,000 Carotene Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Alpha Saphire, owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Malcolm Pierce, captured her first stakes in the 1 1/4-mile Wonder Where, the final leg of Canada's triple tiara.

In her only subsequent race, Alpha Saphire took on older fillies and mares while stretching out to 1 1/2 miles on the turf and finished third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, in the Sept. 7 Flaming Page. Heyahohowdy, the Flaming Page winner, is heading for next Sunday's Grade 1, $750,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes.

"I don't know whether it was the older mares, or the mile and a half," said Pierce. "She ran well, but she just didn't fire."

Pierce acknowledges that the 1 1/8 miles of the Carotene should be more to Alpha Saphire's liking.

"It's a nice little spot," said Pierce. "The mile and an eighth won't hurt her, but it's going to be more help going back with straight 3-year-olds."

Jim McAleney returns aboard Alpha Saphire, who will begin from post 2.

The most accomplished filly in the 10-horse field is Miss Crissy, who has won three stakes and $414,367 for Harlequin Ranches and trainer Emile Allain.

Miss Crissy, unlucky in several earlier stakes engagements this year, finally had a clean trip in her last start, winning the La Prevoyante over one mile of turf under her regular rider, Steven Bahen.

That was her longest race to date, however, and Allain is concerned about the Carotene distance.

"If she relaxes, she can get a mile and an eighth," said Allain, "but it might be pushing it a bit."

Allain said that he probably would scratch Miss Crissy if the turf came up soft and redirect her to Wednesday's $125,000 Deputy Minister, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds in which she would face males.

The other leading Carotene contender is Classic Stamp, whose best career effort came in a first-level allowance over 1 1/8 miles of turf two starts back.

Owned by Bill Sorokolit and trained by Cliff Hopmans, Classic Stamp will have a new rider Monday in Patrick Husbands.

Carotene, the top turf mare for whom the race is named, was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing of Fame this year.