07/27/2004 12:00AM

Connaught alumni back in turf mile


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Prince Alphie and Puffer, both coming out of the tough Connaught Cup Stakes, are among a solid field of six in Thursday's Woodbine headliner at a mile on the grass. The $83,700 allowance is limited to nonwinners of $51,840 other than in maiden or claiming races at a mile or over this year.

Prince Alphie, who captured the 2003 Black Gold Handicap at Fair Grounds, has run three times this year. He was a troubled 11th in his season opener, in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland, and then finished a wide second to Shoal Water here in the allowance prep for the Connaught.

In the May 30 Connaught, Prince Alphie stalked a moderate pace along the rail and ended up 2 1/4 lengths back in fourth. The Connaught winner, Slew Valley, came back to take the Grade 2 King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap; the runner-up, Le Cinquieme Essai, won the International Turf Cup at Fort Erie in his next start; and the third-place finisher, Shoal Water, was a close second in the King Edward, before beating a stellar field Sunday in the Grade 2 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes.

Prince Alphie worked five-eighths of a mile in 59.80 seconds over the turf training course Sunday for her trainer, Josie Carroll, who has been winning at a 22 percent clip with runners returning from layoffs of 61 to 180 days. Jim McAleney has the mount.

Puffer, victorious in the restricted With Approval Stakes here last August, ended up third and fourth in his two allowance outings at Keeneland in April.

Puffer raced three wide throughout the Grade 3 Connaught, and finished a nonthreatening sixth, yet was only two lengths back of Prince Alphie. He was entered and scratched in an $80,000 optional claimer July 16 that was taken off the grass.

Todd Kabel will ride Puffer for Mark Frostad. Kabel and Frostad have been the most successful jockey-trainer combination on the grass here this year.

Open Concert will likely be the heavy favorite if the proceedings are moved to the main track, and he can handle the grass as well. Open Concert was a front-running second over a sloppy track in both the Grade 3 Eclipse and the allowance prep for that fixture in May.

Trainer Abraham Katryan tried Open Concert on the turf last time, in the Grade 3 Highlander Handicap, and had to be pleased when the gelding finished second to the reigning Canadian sprint champion, Soaring Free, who subsequently smashed the North American record for seven furlongs on the grass in the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes.