07/17/2003 11:00PM

Grace for You seeks her just reward

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - At the annual awards dinner held last spring, Elana d'Amour was named the best 3-year-old filly and horse of the year in British Columbia for 2002.

Some would argue, however, that Grace for You, who makes her first start of the year in Sunday's Senate Appointee at Hastings Park, may have been more deserving. After all, she won four of her last five races, three of them stakes, including the Grade 3 Ballerina Breeders' Cup over older fillies and mares. Grace for You also beat Elana d'Amour in two of their last three meetings and, according to Grace for You's trainer, Terry Marshall, she had an excuse for her third-place finish behind Elana d'Amour in the B.C. Breeders' Cup Oaks.

"If she didn't bleed I'm pretty sure she would have won there, too," said Marshall. "I think we had the best horse at the end of the year and I thought when she won the Ballerina that she had cinched the title."

Grace for You hasn't started since winning the Ballerina last October but she's been training very sharply for her return and Marshall expects a strong performance Sunday.

"She's coming around quite nicely," said Marshall. "I'm not sure how it happened but she pulled something in her back when she started training this spring and it set us back a few months. She's fine now, though."

Fernando Serna was the regular rider for Grace for You last year, but he was injured May 11 when a Marshall 2-year-old flipped just before loading into the starting gate and landed on Serna, breaking his pelvis in four places. Serna has been working horses for the past few weeks and is expected to be back riding next weekend.

Sam Krasner has been working Grace for You and he will be aboard Sunday.

Elana d'Amour responding to treatment

Elana d'Amour is skipping the Senate Appointee and will likely resurface in the B.C. Cup Distaff on Aug. 4. She has had thyroid problems this year and her trainer, Joe Apperloo, and his assistant, Brian Giesbrecht, think they have things under control.

"She seems to be responding nicely to the medication we've been treating her with," said Giesbrecht. "She's back to her old self but we just wanted to make sure she's absolutely 100 percent before running her again so we'll sit this one out."

Shelby Madison surprises even her trainer

Shelby Madison surprised a lot of people, including her assistant trainer Mark Cloutier, when she won the Brighouse Belles so easily. Cloutier has pretty much taken over the training duties from his wife, Toni, who is at home taking care of their new baby girl, Stevie.

"I'm not sure why she ran such a big race," said Cloutier. "She really hadn't trained much differently leading up to it. I can't take the credit so let's give it to Pedro [Alvarado] who rode her perfectly."

Cloutier gallops all of the horses in his wife's stable and is also the exercise rider for Grace for You. He has a good idea what Shelby Madison is up against Sunday.

"Grace for You just glides over the track," he said. "I know she hasn't raced in a while but she's a slight filly and she seems plenty fit to me. She's definitely the one to beat."

Illusive Force headed home

Trainer Rob VanOverschot reports that Illusive Force is headed back west after an unsuccessful trip to Woodbine, where the best he could do in four starts was finish fourth a couple of times. Illusive Force finished last in the Queen's Plate and was also last in a subsequent start on the turf. He could run in the Stallion Stakes at Hastings on Aug. 4 or the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia on the same day.

"I'll know more about who's running where after this weekend," said VanOverschot. "I'll nominate both Stratoplan and Illusive Force to the Manitoba Derby and it just depends on how things go with Stratoplan Sunday and how Illusive Force ships from Ontario on which one I'll send to Manitoba."

Stratoplan figures to be a solid favorite in the Jim Coleman Province on Sunday.