10/02/2002 12:00AM

'Dalliance' has found a soft spot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Royal Dalliance, third in a recent restricted stakes at Fort Erie, should be a tough customer in Friday's Woodbine headliner, an $80,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares.

Royal Dalliance, who banked $126,540 in 2001, is in the midst of another productive campaign for trainer Joanna Iglar-Hughes. She struggled during the spring, but began to exhibit signs of life in June, and then finished a distant third in the July 14 Kamar Stakes.

After ending up fourth on turf in the Victoriana Stakes, Royal Dalliance rallied inside to upset Brass in Pocket in winning a nine-furlong optional claimer on Aug. 28, earning an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.

Most recently in the Sept. 24 H.A. Hindmarsh Stakes at the Fort, Royal Dalliance closed steadily to finish third behind the talented pair of Small Promises and Devastating, for which she was awarded a lifetime best 92 Beyer.

Na Somsanith has a return call on Royal Dalliance, a daughter of Tejabo owned by Dave Hughes and John Godwin.

Also entered in the 1 1/16-mile race were Tuff Chick, Letter of Intent, Gorilla My Dreams, Miss Benny, Rich Mist, Langano, and Night Edition.

Gorilla My Dreams won consecutive $62,500 optional claimers in midsummer for Bob Tiller, who has trained her throughout her four-year career. She dueled up front over a speed-favoring track last time, in a $100,000 claimer, and finished a neck back of a sharp My Real Quiet Lady in second.

Gorilla My Dreams could be the lone speed in Friday's race, a scenario that would make her especially dangerous. Shane Ellis retains the mount.

Rich Mist closed against the bias to finish third behind My Real Quiet Lady and Gorilla My Dreams in her most recent start. She is winless in nine starts this year, but won twice in 2001.

Letter of Intent, second in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita a year ago, hasn't won since taking a $62,500 optional claimer here Dec. 1. She came up empty in a recent turf race, and was previously fourth in Royal Dalliance's Aug. 28 triumph.

Tuff Chick was a stalking second on the grass last time, in her first appearance since early June, and Night Edition won a second-level allowance on Sept. 21.

Deep closers Langano and Miss Benny have their work cut out for them.

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