10/03/2002 11:00PM

Horse of the year candidate Elana d'Amour fit for Ballerina


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Elana d'Amour could wrap up horse of the year honors in British Columbia with a win in Sunday's $175,000, Grade 3 Ballerina Breeders' Cup Oaks. It would be her sixth stakes win at the meet, including a 1 1/2-length win in the B.C Oaks. With a record like that, she should also be given national consideration for a Sovereign Award.

Given that she's the sixth foal out of a mare that has produced only two cheap winners, it's hard to believe that she has turned out to be this good.

"She's a freak," said her owner and breeder Gary Mayo. "I never expected this, especially given her breeding, although she is by Vying Victor [leading sire in B.C.]. She's been a pleasant surprise to say the least."

For Mayo, who has owned horses for 14 years, Elana d'Amour is his first stakes winner. "It's been a dream come true," he said.

Mayo named her after his daughter Elana because "they have the same birthday," but if he had known what type of temperament Elana d'Amour was going to have, he might have called her something else and "it would probably not be fit to print."

"She's terrible," he said. "She's not a friendly horse at all. She just wants to savage you and unless she's tied up, you don't even think of going into her stall. She's been that way since she was born. But when they're this good, it's not that hard to put up with."

Elana d'Amour is also the first stakes winner for her trainer Joe Apperloo. He was happy with the way she came out of the Oaks and was considering running her against the boys in the B.C. Derby just two weeks later.

"I think she could have won it," said Apperloo, "especially the way it turned out with the big guns not firing their best shot."

He wasn't complaining about not running though. "It would have been asking a lot, and with the extra time she's really blossomed," he said. "Her work last week was probably her best one ever and she just couldn't be doing any better."

One of the horses she will have to beat is Sweet Monarch, who finished second in the Oaks after a troubled trip. Sweet Monarch wasn't shown much respect by local fans and was sent off at 21-1 despite her coming off of a second-place finish in the Canadian Derby. She was also an easy winner of the Sonoma Stakes in her previous start. Sweet Monarch raced all year in Alberta before the Oaks and her trainer, Dale Greenwood, left her at Hastings in Kelly Rycroft's care following the race.

"Kelly said that she's doing fine and Chris Loseth worked her a couple of times and he was very pleased," said Greenwood.

Loseth said he could have won the Oaks with a better trip and was looking forward to riding her back in the Ballerina.

Makors Mark in deep

Trainer Dave Forster recently sent a small string of horses to the Midwest, including Makors Mark, who was to have started at Keeneland Saturday in the Grade 3, $250,00 Phoenix Breeders' Cup. But Forster didn't expect to be facing the likes of Xtra Heat, who finished second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year and who has won six of her eight starts this season.

"We were just looking for an easy spot," quipped Forster. "There's only five in the race so at least we'll get paid to run. He's been training extremely well back there and it looks like there's a lot of speed in the race. He'll make a good run late and could get a good chunk of it."

Makors Mark has only started twice this year, and looked good winning a five-furlong allowance race at Emerald in his last start. He won the 2000 B.C. Derby.

One of the reasons Forster sent a string to the Midwest was to give his son Grant some experience away from the West Coast. Grant was in charge of the Forster stable at Emerald. "I'm not going back for the race Saturday," said the elder Forster. "I've got enough to do here and I'm sure Grant can handle it."

Forster will stay home to saddle longshots Castle Mountain and Latter Day Paula in the Ballerina on Sunday.