10/31/2001 12:00AM

High-earning California invader in town for Maple Leaf

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Maple Leaf Stakes generally is not considered a magnet for California-based runners.

But Saturday's renewal of the Grade 3, 1 1/4 mile race for fillies and mares has attracted just such an animal in Letter of Intent, a 4-year-old owned by Farfellow Farms Ltd. and trained by Bill Spawr.

Letter of Intent, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old by Capote out of the Raise a Native mare Island Splendour, was a $240,000 purchase at the Barretts March sale in 1999.

She has earned back a good portion of that price, picking up $203,218 while winning only two of 15 starts but finishing second or third on seven other occasions.

And she has kept good company this year, finishing third in the Grade 2 La Canada behind Spain and Chilukki Feb. 11; fourth to Gourmet Girl, Lazy Slusan, and Setareh in the Grade 1 Vanity June 30; and second to Queenie Belle in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret in her last start Sept. 29.

Letter of Intent checked in Wednesday afternoon and has taken up temporary residence in the barn of Roger Attfield. But Attfield will not be cheering on his guest Saturday, as he will be sending out two runners of his own in the $191,800 feature.

The Attfield representatives are Zamba Canuta and Forest Princess, both 4-year-old fillies but with disparate backgrounds.

Zamba Canuta began her career in Peru, where she placed in three Group 1 raes as a 3-year-old, and had started five times for trainer Elliott Walden in the United States this year before coming north.

The filly was an impressive winner in her only appearance for her new trainer, dominating an allowance-optional claiming race over 1 1/4 miles on turf here Sept. 12.

"We've been pointing her for this [the Maple Leaf]," said Attfield, noting that Zambu Canuta been effective on the dirt at 1 1/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles during her Peruvian period.

"She is a distance filly, for sure, and she's been training awfully well on dirt," he said.

Forest Princess, a productive performer here last year, has had several setbacks during her current campaign. She is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Maple Leaf prep behind the Sam-Son Farm entry of Mountain Angel and Catch the Ring, who also will be back in action Saturday.

The complete field for the Maple Leaf, in post position order with riders and weights, will be: Letter of Intent (Emile Ramsammy, 115), Catch the Ring (Robert Landry, 119), Paint Her Gold (Constant Montpellier, 119), Mountain Angel (Todd Kabel, 119), Nymphenburg (Gary Boulanger, 121), Madame Red (Patrick Husbands, 116), Forest Princess (David Clark, 115) and Zamba Canuta (Mickey Walls, 115).

Royal Fact, Libretto done for year

Stronach Stable had the 3-year-old fillies Royal Fact and Libretto nominated to the Maple Leaf but both have been put away for the season.

Libretto, seventh in the Valley View at Oct. 20 Keeneland, is headed for Adena Springs South in Florida. Royal Fact, second to Madame Red here in the recent La Lorgnette, is at Adena Springs North in Aurora, Ontario.

Milwaukee Brew is 'awesome now'

Milwaukee Brew, a disappointment in four starts for Joe Orseno earlier this year, is back with trainer Tino Attard for a late-season campaign. It had been hoped Milwaukee Brew would return in the $150,000 Autumn Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile race here Nov. 10, but that target could be coming up too quickly.

"We're definitely behind the eight ball, time-wise," said Kevin Attard, who trains a division of the Stronach 2-year-olds and also filled in here for his father, Tino, during his recent suspension. "But he's doing awesome right now; we couldn't be happier with the way he's training."

El Soprano's flop still baffling

Kevin Attard has yet to come up with a definitive answer to the perplexing performance of El Soprano, who finished a distant last as the favorite here in last Sunday's Coronation Futurity.

"He started off bad," he said. "He stumbled leaving the gate, and got shuffled back a bit on the first turn. Maybe that kind of knocked him off his game."

El Soprano, a Stronach homebred, was making just his second start on the main track in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation after winning the Grade 2 Summer and just missing in the Cup and Saucer on the turf course here.

"He ran a decent race first time," said Attard, with reference to El Soprano's third-place finish when debuting on the main track here Aug. 6, "and he's always worked well on dirt."

Adding to Attard's uncertainty is the fact that El Soprano appeared to come out of the Coronation in good order.

"He's got me puzzled," the trainer said. "We've been doing routine things, like pulling blood, trying to come up with an explanation. If everything comes back good, we'll have to assume he's just a turf horse."

In any case, the Coronation will be the last race of the year for El Soprano, who probably will receive some support in the Sovereign Award balloting for top male 2-year-old.

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