06/05/2003 11:00PM

Illusive Force sharp now


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sunday's $136,875 Victoria Park, an open race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, is the final stakes prep on the road to the June 22 Queen's Plate.

Illusive Force, a British Columbia invader owned by Canyon Farm, will get his major test for the 1 1/4-mile Plate in the Victoria Park, carrying 121 pounds and spotting four pounds to his six rivals.

Illusive Force became a long-term candidate for the $1 million Queen's Plate by capping a four-race win streak in the 1 1/16-mile Ascot Graduation at Hastings last October in his final start as a 2-year-old.

After opening up his 2003 campaign at Hastings with a win in the 6 1/2-furlong City of Vancouver, Illusive Force raced here seven days later in the 1 1/16-mile Marine, finishing a faltering fourth, beaten 10 3/4 lengths by Wando. But Illusive Force came back and worked very well, including six furlongs in 1:12 here Wednesday.

"He's much sharper now," said Lani VanOverschot, wife and assistant to trainer Robert VanOverschot.

Illusive Force's regular rider Dave Wilson, based in Alberta, was here for the Marine and will be be here to ride again Sunday.

Quiet Dare showed plenty of promise at 2, winning the 6 1/2-furlong Sunny's Halo. He also finished a strong second to subsequent Plate Trial winner Mobil in his 2003 debut in the seven-furlong Queenston here May 3.

But Quiet Dare then disappointed badly as the second choice in the Marine, trailing the field throughout and leaving trainer Mac Benson at a loss for an explanation.

"I think I've got it, we'll see," said Benson.

He does not think that the cause of Quiet Dare's non-effort was the addition of a shadow roll, which nevertheless will be coming off Sunday.

"He's got to run a good race before he goes on to the Plate," Benson said.

Also meriting respect is Cool Irony, who earned an impressive Beyer Speed Figure of 91 when he won his maiden over 1 1/16 miles of muddy going in his second lifetime appearance here May 24.

"We've always thought he was a very nice horse," said Josie Carroll, who trains Cool Irony for Mike Ryan. "He's just a very unseasoned horse, at this point.

"To try and make the Plate, he obviously would need a race like this."