11/17/2005 12:00AM

Cryptograph eyes Slots jackpot

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Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Cryptograph turns back a sixteenth from his Durham Cup win (above).

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Cryptograph, coming off an impressive score in the Durham Cup here Oct. 15, will be solidly backed to repeat when he takes on seven rivals in Saturday's $164,400 Woodbine Slots Cup.

Both the Durham Cup and Woodbine Slots Cup are Grade 3 handicaps, with the Durham Cup at 1 1/8 miles and the Slots Cup at 1 1/16 miles.

Malcolm Pierce, who conditions Cryptograph for Pin Oak Stable, does not believe the cutback in distance will present a problem.

"He's got a really good kick," said Pierce, "and as long as there's an honest pace, he comes running."

Cryptograph joined Pierce here this summer and rallied from last place in a field of five to finish second in his local bow, a classified allowance over 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 26. In the Durham Cup, Cryptograph trailed his five rivals before launching a strong move that carried him to a 2 3/4-length victory. Pierce believes that effort was even more impressive than it appeared.

"Leaving the gate, he stumbled and grabbed his quarter," said Pierce. "I think that was stinging him a bit, because it was kind of a nasty grab. It took us at least week after that race to get things back to normal."

Todd Kabel retains the mount on Cryptograph, the 121-pound highweight.

Niigon, who was the Durham Cup runner-up when spotting Cryptograph five pounds, will be looking to turn the tables as he carries 120 pounds and shortens up to the distance at which he has recorded 3 of his 4 career victories.

"I just hope he runs as well as he should," said Eric Coatrieux, who conditions Niigon for Chiefswood Stable. "I think he should be a little bit closer to the pace.

"Last time he was a little far back, but I don't know if it would have made a difference."

Robert Landry, who has ridden Niigon to each of his victories, including last year's Queen's Plate, has been replaced by Patrick Husbands for the Woodbine Slots Cup.

Husbands was aboard when Niigon shipped in from his Chiefswood base to work five furlongs in 1:02 on a sloppy training track here Nov. 6.

The Woodbine Slots Cup field also includes a trio of newcomers in Bull Ranch, a 3-year-old who arrived from Hastings in solid form; Habaneros, who recently has been campaigning in Kentucky and now is here with trainer Frank Passero; and Powerful Punch, who is making his seasonal bow for Stronach Stable.