10/27/2004 11:00PM

Fisher Pond is prepping in Bearhart

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - David Bell, Woodbine's hottest stakes trainer, will run long-winded dirt specialist Fisher Pond on the grass in Saturday's $108,000 Chief Bearhart.

Fisher Pond, owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, won the 1 1/2-mile Lawrence Realization Handicap over a sloppy track at Belmont in 2002. He also placed in two Grade 3's that year, the Gallant Fox and the Red Smith.

Fisher Pond, who has one win in four starts this year, was turned over to Bell during the summer. He was a fading fifth when returning from a six-month layoff on Sept. 15, in a $100,000 optional claimer at 1 1/2 miles on the lawn.

Bell said he felt Fisher Pond needed his comeback race, and said he had no other viable options for the horse then.

"I think it was better than going short with him," he said.

Bell is using the 1 1/4-mile Chief Bearhart as Fisher Pond's final prep for Woodbine's closing-day feature, the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory Handicap on Dec. 12. He believes the allowance prep for the Valedictory may be hard-pressed to fill, and that this spot is a useful alternative, even though it's on the grass.

"He's better on the dirt," Bell said. "He runs okay on the turf, but he's never excelled on it. I'm hoping it comes off the grass."

Bell won two lucrative stakes last weekend, the Grade 2 Nearctic Handicap with I Thee Wed and the $250,000 Princess Elizabeth with Victorious Ami.

Ten others are entered in the Chief Bearhart, including Rainbows for Luck, Last Answer, and Control Tower.

The Mark Frostad-trained Rainbows for Luck is exiting a fourth-place finish going 1 3/8 miles in the Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap.

Last Answer, trained by Mike Keogh, was recently third against $62,500 opposition on the main track. He finished second in each of his two most recent grass starts, both in marathons at the second allowance level.

Control Tower ran third in Royal Regalia's course-record-breaking run in a one-mile optional claimer on July 1, and went on to finish fourth in the Grade 2 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes, and fifth in the Grade 2 Niagara BC Handicap.