08/02/2001 12:00AM

Heliotrope, Confessional clash on turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Saturday's Grade 3, $142,625 Royal North Handicap features an intriguing match-up between Heliotrope, last year's champion turf female in Canada, and 2000 Royal North winner Confessional.

Heliotrope has become a fan favorite at Woodbine, mainly because she gives her all every time she runs. She won her seasonal debut in the allowance prep for the Nassau Stakes, but came up a half-length short over soft ground in the 1 1/16-mile Nassau.

Trainer David Bell has sprinted Heliotrope in her last two starts with positive results. She was a close fourth while facing a tough group of males in the Grade 2 Nearctic Handicap, and overcame major traffic problems in the stretch to take the allowance prep for the Royal North.

"She got into a little trouble on the turn in the Nearctic," Bell recalled, "but she was only beaten 1 1/4 lengths. Our plan was to take her back off the pace in the prep. She had no running room, and when she finally got free, she put in a pretty impressive run. What's impressed me about her is that she used to be just a speed filly, but now she's very tractable."

Confessional is the 124-pound highweight in the Royal North, a six-furlong turf dash. She has won an astounding seven of eight starts since joining trainer Graham Motion's string at the beginning of 2000, and is unbeaten in two outings this year.

Confessional has been idle since she captured The Very One Stakes at Pimlico May 18, but has recorded some rapid workouts at her Delaware Park base during the past month.

"She pretty much works the same way every time," Motion said. "She's very professional, and she seems to be doing super."

According to Motion, the Royal North has been on Confessional's agenda for some time. "There are very few sprinting opportunities for fillies and mares, especially in graded stakes," he said. "We've had this race in mind for her all year."

Competing the Royal North line-up are Sports Flashy, Bahama Dream, Ring of Flowers, Cozy Up Doc, Ahead By a Century, Dreams Go Bye, Pete's Fancy, Yes We Do, and Automated.

Pete's Fancy set a brisk pace before fading to finish third in the 2000 Royal North. She won a minor stakes at Fort Erie in her first start this year, and led until deep stretch before ending up second in the Royal North prep.

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