08/31/2012 1:01PM

Fort Erie: Alamanda Drive brings good turf form into Labatt Cup


FORT ERIE, Ontario – Alamanda Drive, a 6-year-old mare who is 4 for 17 on the turf, heads a field of 12 fillies and mares for Sunday’s $30,000 Labatt Cup at Fort Erie. The 1 1/16-mile turf race is restricted to horses who have run at least three times this year at Fort Erie.

Alamanda Drive, trained by Marilyn McMullen, went gate-to-wire two starts back over one mile while competing without the price in a second-level optional $20,000 claiming race.

Melanie Pinto, who was in the saddle that day, again gets the call and is expected to try and use the same speed tactics as she leaves from post 4.

Grace by Moonlight, a 4-year-old, has been in top form this season, winning three in a row on the dirt after arriving from Woodbine.

Trained by Shawn Rideout, Grace by Moonlight came close to notching her fourth win of the year when she missed by a neck in a recent 6 1/2-furlong allowance race, again on the dirt.

Grace by Moonlight has limited turf experience, with three starts on the surface, but appears to be much improved since last trying the grass. In a turf try at Woodbine last season, she finished a willing fourth in a 12-horse field of allowance runners.

Juan Crawford, the regular rider of Grace by Moonlight, retains the mount.

Venganza, a Carlos Grant-trained 6-year-old, has had five starts this season, three of them on the turf at the Fort, where she has hit the board twice.

In her last turf outing, Venganza just missed scoring on the grass for the third time in her career when being nosed out at the wire as the favorite.

Jose Contreras gets the call on Venganza.

Winning Charm won her first turf outing in three tries two starts back while going this distance at the Fort. The 5-year-old Winning Charm scored by using her good tactical speed to contend throughout, proving game by giving up the lead entering the stretch and then making up three lengths in the drive to prevail.

Chris Griffith, who was aboard that day, will be in the saddle for trainer Mike Newell.

Also meriting respect in the Labatt Cup is Striking Miss, a John Simms-trained 5-year-old who has come to the fore after having problems earlier in the year.

Striking Miss won by eight lengths in the Mike Anderson Memorial, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race here in early August, and now gets to go the same distance in her third try on the turf.

Martin Ramirez will ride Striking Miss.

◗ The popular Tuesday twilight cards of the summer season concluded last week. Tuesday post time until the meet ends on Oct. 30 will be 1:15 p.m. Eastern.