06/29/2001 11:00PM

Highland Mood can go 3 for 3


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Highland Mood and Turner's Hall are the two marquee horses in Monday's $146,880 Ontario Damsel Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong turf dash for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Highland Mood, trained by Woodbine leader Bob Tiller, is unbeaten in two starts. She was dismissed at 26-1 when she debuted in a six-furlong maiden special May 23, and turned heads when she scored by daylight in 1:11.40, earning a 76 Beyer Figure.

In a six-furlong allowance on turf June 6, Highland Mood stalked the pace for a half-mile before drawing off for a 2 1/2-length triumph.

Tiller said that Highland Mood, a large daughter of Highland Ruckus, has surprised him with her talent.

"She runs better in the afternoon than she's worked in the mornings," Tiller said. "She's not a work horse, so I wasn't real high on her. We decided to run her in a maiden allowance, and she jumped up and won at a big price. So far, she's been a pleasant surprise."

Tiller said he hasn't done much with Highland Mood heading into the Damsel. "I worked her just once," he said. "We had some minor problems with her, but she's in good order."

David Clark, who was Highland Ruckus's regular rider, retains the mount on Highland Mood.

Turner's Hall was second after a clean trip in the roughly run Selene Stakes, a Grade 1 race May 21. She was a fading fifth most recently in the 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks, finishing six lengths back of Dancethruthedawn.

"I think she just didn't stay the trip in the Oaks," said her trainer, Ron Burke. "She ran good for 1 1/16 miles, and that was it. She's by Forest Wildcat, who was a sprinter, and is out of a mare by Grey Dawn who was a 2-year-old champion."

Burke bypassed Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Bison City Stakes at Fort Erie with Turner's Hall, who will make her first start on turf in the Damsel.

"This should be a softer spot than the Bison City," said Burke. "I think she's a sprinter who wants to go 6 1/2 or seven furlongs. She's got a big stride on her, and I don't think she wants to be hustled. I think the turf course here is a galloping track, which should suit her. She's very honest."

Patrick Husbands has the mount on Turner's Hall, who is owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk.

Rounding out the Damsel lineup are Crown's Shadow, Phone Dancer, Chopinina, and Bel Serenata.