08/17/2003 11:00PM

Clouds of Gold looks tough on drop

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Clouds of Gold, third in the recent Belle Mahone Stakes, will be tough to overhaul in Wednesday's Woodbine headliner, an $80,000 optional claimer worth $79,400.

Clouds of Gold, a 4-year-old by Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold, has hit the board in 6 of 8 career starts. She was claimed from her winning debut Nov. 1 by the partnership of trainer Ken Parsley and the Valiant Stable, then capped her 2002 campaign by running second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance.

Clouds of Gold won a two-turn preliminary allowance in her 2003 opener, then ran fourth in a prep for the Ontario Matron Handicap. She ran sixth in the Matron, but rebounded with a runner-up finish behind the upwardly mobile One Only Knows in allowance company.

Clouds of Gold won a second-level allowance with a three-wide stalking journey over an inside-biased track July 16. She was the 7-2 second choice in the Belle Mahone, and was beaten four lengths while defeating two 2002 Sovereign Award finalists for champion 3-year-old filly, Ginger Gold and Mulrainy.

Parsley felt Clouds of Gold didn't handle the muddy track in the 1 1/16-mile Belle Mahone.

"She was climbing," Parsley said. "[Jockey Patrick Husbands] said she struggled the whole way. I thought she was going to be fourth, but Ginger Gold stopped very badly. She still ran a decent race, and got some black type.

Clouds of Gold, the 122-pound highweight, breaks from the 1-hole Wednesday under Jono Jones, who was aboard for both of her allowance wins.

The 1 1/16-mile race has lured four other fillies and mares: La Princess Jolie with apprentice Jill Scharfstein riding; Night Edition, Steven Bahen; Rich Mist, Robert Landry; and Darling Katey, James McKnight.

Darling Katey trailed in the six-horse field in the Belle Mahone, but finished in the top three in her two previous outings, both at this level. McKnight was aboard for her last victory, in a nine-furlong allowance taken off the grass Oct. 12.

Night Edition beat Darling Katey when she finished second in a June 19 allowance on the main track, but is coming off a lackluster effort on turf in the Victoriana Stakes.

Late-running Rich Mist, winless since the beginning of 2002, likely will be compromised by a projected slow pace.

La Princess Jolie was recently second in a minor stakes at Fort Erie.