11/24/2003 12:00AM

Clouds of Gold takes a drop

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Clouds of Gold, a commendable third in the Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes, heads the featured eighth race on the final Wednesday night card of the Woodbine meeting.

A field of eight fillies and mares was drawn for the $80,000 optional claimer, which will be run at 1 1/16 miles.

Clouds of Gold, a $32,000 claim last fall by trainer Ken Parsley, reached full bloom in midsummer, when she won a second-level allowance and finished third behind Royal Dalliance and Tuff Chick in the Belle Mahone Stakes.

Soon after the Aug. 2 Belle Mahone, Clouds of Gold was made the 2-5 favorite in an $80,000 optional claimer. But after setting a slow pace, she flattened out in the stretch and finished last in the five-horse field. Parsley then gave her a break.

"She ran a very flat race, so I decided to give her a little time off," Parsley said. "I freshened her up on the farm, and she responded when I put her back into training."

Clouds of Gold returned on Oct. 11, in the allowance prep for the Maple Leaf, and finished a distant third behind One for Rose and Winning Chance. That order of finish was duplicated in the 1 1/4-mile Maple Leaf, in which One for Rose prevailed by 6 1/4 lengths over Winning Chance, who was 6 1/4 lengths clear of Clouds of Gold. Parsley said he was pleased with the performance, in which Clouds of Gold earned a lifetime-best 92 Beyer Figure.

"We were hoping to get her some black type in a graded race," Parsley said. "She got into her own little race with Royal Dalliance, and wouldn't let her go by. We didn't think we could be close to the winner, but it was a nice effort. She's an honest filly. She tries hard every time."

Jockey Jono Jones was named aboard Clouds of Gold. Jones and Parsley teamed up to capture three stakes this year with My Vintage Port, a leading contender for the Sovereign Award as champion 2-year-old filly.

Also entered in Wednesday's feature are Branksome Hall, Sheriff's Posse, Dancen in the Sun, Night Edition, Olympic Advice, Touch of Ginger, and Langano. Dancen in the Sun, second in the 2001 Woodbine Oaks, is running back a week after ending up third in the restricted Classy 'n Smart Stakes.

Touch of Ginger, who finished second in back-to-back $80,000 races in October, has run three solid races since returning from a summer layoff.