08/05/2007 11:00PM

Crown jewels land in three separate camps


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mike Fox, Alezzandro, and Marchfield were the only three horses to compete in all three legs of this year's Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, which concluded with the Breeders' Stakes here Sunday.

And it was Marchfield, who had been disappointing in both Mike Fox's Queen's Plate at Woodbine and in Alezzandro's Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, who stepped up to capture the $500,000 Breeders' over 1 1/2 miles of turf.

The three-way Triple Crown split was not that much of surprise to Marchfield's trainer, Mark Casse, or to the bettors who made Allezandro the 7-5 favorite and Marchfield the second choice at 7-2.

"You can run these guys every week, and you can have a different winner," said Casse.

Marchfield was making his first start on turf, winning his first stakes, and giving Casse his first win in a Canadian Triple Crown race.

The colt also was justifying the faith of Casse, who had begun the season believing he had a top-notch 3-year-old.

Marchfield, a homebred son of A.P. Indy who is owned by Eugene Melnyk, made two starts last year, and Casse had thoughts of setting him out on the Kentucky Derby trail. But after a second-place finish in a Gulfstream maiden race in his 3-year-old debut, Marchfield struggled home ninth at Gulfstream on March 3.

"When he bled badly in his second start, that put an end to that," said Casse.

Marchfield spent two weeks on the shelf before embarking on 60 days of light training on the farm in Ocala, Fla.

"We had to play catch-up with him after that," said Casse.

Marchfield started out well enough upon his return to Woodbine this spring, winning a 1 1/16-mile maiden race in his first start with blinkers and then finishing a closing second in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial. But Marchfield finished sixth in the Queen's Plate and fifth in the Prince of Wales, and Casse decided to drop the blinkers for the Breeders'.

"He'd shown earlier in the year, and last year, that he had a lot of ability," said Casse. "But he needs pace. We put the blinkers on to keep him close, and it took his game away."

Marchfield certainly rediscovered his game in the Breeders', as he trailed in the field of nine with a quarter-mile remaining and then rallied for a one-length victory under jockey Patrick Husbands, who had captured last year's Breeders' with Royal Challenger and the 2003 running under Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando.

"It's a rider's race," said Casse.

While Casse will confer with Melnyk and the owner's Winding Oaks Farm manager, Phil Hronec, it is not likely that Marchfield will see action again this season.

"The plan is probably for him to go home to Winding Oak, and get the rest of the year off," said Casse. "We've kept him going all year, just to get him ready for the Queen's Plate, and it's taken its toll on him.

"And, the A.P. Indys are historically better as 4-year-olds."

Early tests foiled Alezzandro

Alezzandro had finished second here in the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate and then won the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales at Fort Erie.

In the Breeders' he faced a couple of early challenges and finished sixth.

"He had a hard trip," said Attard. "It didn't look good from the start. He never got a breather."

Alezzandro, who did not debut until May 13 and was making his fifth start in the Breeders', will be heading to Knob Hill Farm.

"We'll send him to the farm and freshen him up a little bit," said Attard. "We'll be gearing him toward the Ontario Derby."

Mike Fox bled

Mike Fox, who won the Queen's Plate and finished fourth in the Prince of Wales, was a rather flat fifth in the Breeders'.

"He did bleed significantly," said Ian Black, who trains Mike Fox for D. Morgan Firestone. "It looked like he was in perfect position, but he didn't fire. It looked like he was going comfortably.

"Maybe he wasn't going to stay the trip, but he did have that excuse."

Mike Fox, who made his first start this year at Tampa Bay Downs on March 23, also will be getting some time off.

"We're going to send him up to the farm for a month, and turn him out a bit," said Black, who also has tabbed the Ontario Derby the next target for Mike Fox and is looking forward to getting the colt back on Polytrack.