06/10/2004 11:00PM

Eye of the Sphynx tops Oaks


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Unbeaten Eye of the Sphynx should be the heavy favorite in a field of five in Sunday's $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks. The 1 1/8-mile Oaks, for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, is the first leg of the Canadian triple tiara. Completing the series is the Labatt Bison City Stakes at Fort Erie July 4, and the Wonder Where Stakes here on the grass Aug. 1.

Sunday's 11-race Woodbine card includes two other stakes, the $140,375 Victoria Park and the $113,000 Alywow.

Nashinda, who might have been favored in the Oaks, wasn't entered Friday because of a foot bruise.

Eye of the Sphynx has made all three of her starts over wet tracks for Sam-Son Farm, which has won the Oaks a record-tying six times. Several minor problems kept her from running at 2, and she won her long-awaited debut comfortably, over a sloppy track at Keeneland April 22.

Eye of the Sphynx went on to capture the seven-furlong Fury Stakes, and was a determined winner last time in another important Oaks prep, the Grade 2 Selene Stakes. She hit the front on the far turn in the 1 1/16-mile Selene before Silver Bird rallied to take control inside the eighth pole. Eye of the Sphynx then countered with a late surge to prevail by a neck.

Trainer Mark Frostad was in awe of Eye of the Sphynx's Selene performance.

"It was an exceptional effort, for a lightly raced filly to actually come back on along the inside like she did," Frostad said. "Everything set up for [Silver Bird], and I thought she had us at the eighth pole. It looked like [Eye of the Sphynx] was going to be beaten two or three lengths, but she came back on."

Frostad believes that last race failed to empty Eye of the Sphynx's tank.

"She worked three-quarters in 1:14 the other day," Frostad said. "It was the best work of the day. She hasn't missed a beat, but this will be a real test."

Trainer Reade Baker will send out three-fifths of the Oaks field - Silver Bird, Hong Kong Dancer, and Touchnow.

Silver Bird, who also ran second in the Fury, won the Glorious Song Stakes at 2. Baker was thrilled with her Selene effort.

"She ran super," Baker said. "I don't think she was fit enough. We didn't get a race into her over the wintertime, so I ran a short horse. She came out of it better than any horse I've ever trained. I think she'll be super-tough in the Oaks."

Late-blooming Hong Kong Dancer has won both of her races with ease. She won her debut May 1, and was awarded an 88 Beyer Speed Figure when she doubled up in a 1 1/16-mile allowance May 22.

"Hong Kong Dancer can keep an eye on any of the speed that's up front," Baker said. "If she improves off her last race, nobody will beat her."

Baker said he isn't concerned with Hong Kong Dancer's lack of experience. "It would be important in a big field, where she could get some dirt in her face, but not now," he said.

Touchnow graduated over a sloppy track in a slow seven-furlong allowance May 8. Baker said she had a valid excuse in her most recent outing, in which she was a well-beaten fifth behind Hong Kong Dancer. "She came back with mucus in her race the other day," he said.

My Vintage Port, last year's Canadian champion 2-year-old filly, ran third in the Fury, and was recently second in the seven-furlong Lady Angela Stakes. "I don't think the distance will be a problem for her," said trainer Ken Parsley. "She likes to lay off the pace and make her run. I'd love to see an honest pace in front of her."