07/02/2007 11:00PM

King Edward trio put on fine show


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Big races often don't live up to their billing, but the King Edward Gold Cup here at Woodbine exceeded all expectations.

Sky Conqueror and Jambalaya, both Grade 1 winners south of the border this year, were renewing a rivalry that began here on their home grounds last year and were expected to provide most of the fireworks on Monday's holiday program.

And, while both lived up to their ends of the bargain, it was Eccentric who emerged the winner in a three-horse photo, with a rallying Sky Conqueror beaten the narrowest of noses and a stubborn Jambalaya a neck back in third.

Eccentric, a 6-year-old owned by Gary Tanaka and trained by Roger Attfield, had won the Grade 3 Connaught Cup, the first turf race for the division at the meeting, at 1o1/16 miles here May 27.

"He's a tough old gelding, and he's pretty versatile," said Attfield. "I'd actually thought about taking him out to the Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday, but this race was right here.

"I thought he might like a bit of give in the ground, but he obviously handled the firm turf."

There was honor for the vanquished as well.

Sky Conqueror was making his first start in eight weeks and Jambalaya his first in three months, and both ran well enough to win under most circumstances.

"I thought he ran a great race," said Darwin Banach, who trains Sky Conqueror. "You can't get much closer."

Catherine Day Phillips, who trains Jambalaya, was "delighted" with her runner's effort.

"He was coming off a layoff, and he ran very hard," said Day Phillips.

Sky Conqueror and Jambalaya both are headed for the Grade 2, $750,000 Northern Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race here July 22, and Eccentric should again be looking to play the role of spoiler.

Attfield has another candidate for the Northern Dancer in The Carbon Unit, a 5-year-old horse who recently arrived here from Arlington Park, where he was being trained by Eric Heitzmann.

The Carbon Unit had raced in Dubai and Ireland before arriving in the United States this spring but has failed to make much of an impact in four subsequent outings.

Sharp invader from out west

Trainer Terry Jordan and owner Bob Cheema continued their pillage of Woodbine on Monday when Dancing Allstar romped to a 6 3/4-length victory under Todd Kabel in the $125,000 My Dear Stakes.

Less than 24 hours earlier, the same connections had teamed up to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Dominion Day with the redoubtable True Metropolitan.

Dancing Allstar, a British Columbia-bred, had won her maiden going 3 1/2 furlongs at Hastings on May 6.

"I knew from her first work that she could run," said Jordan. "I have some other nice 2-year-olds, but she was different from the rest."

Jordan, who had been in the midst of plans to ship a division to Woodbine, originally had wanted to reserve Dancing Allstar's debut for a more lucrative maiden race here.

"I felt she could break her maiden anywhere," said Jordan, "but Bob has a lot of friends out there, and wanted to see her run in Vancouver."

Dancing Allstar arrived at Woodbine in mid-May with the five-furlong My Dear her first target.

And while Jordan had been very high on Dancing Allstar after seeing the My Dear nominations, his confidence wavered slightly after the Steve Asmussen-trained Sky Mom was supplemented on the day of entries.

"Everybody was talking about Sky Mom, her 94 Beyer and everything," said Jordan. "What was I supposed to think?"

Now, everybody is talking about Dancing Allstar after the filly rung up a Beyer Speed Figure of 88 and left a troubled but probably overmatched Sky Mom a soundly beaten second.

Jordan's pleasant dilemma is to find a next target for Dancing Allstar, with the Aug. 18 Ontario Debutante the next local 2-year-old filly stakes for which she is eligible.

"We're looking at all options," said Jordan. "I never look too far ahead with 2-year-olds."

Owner trusts his eye

Cheema bought Dancing Allstar for $15,000 out of the fall sale conducted by the British Columbia division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

"I always buy a few horses out of that sale," said Cheema, who was watching his horses race at Woodbine for the first time last weekend.

Cheema does not claim to be an expert on pedigree but trusts his instincts when it comes to his purchases.

"She looked good," said Cheema. "Looks can't lie."

Cheema said his phone started ringing with purchase offers shortly after Dancing Allstar's romp.

The owner also has high expectations for Diamond Tree, an unraced 2-year-old colt whom he purchased out of the same sale for $12,000.

"He's better than Dancing Allstar," said Cheema, who will be sending Diamond Tree to Woodbine.

Mike Fox signed on for Prince of Wales

Queen's Plate winner Mike Fox heads the list of 16 nominees for Fort Erie's $500,000 Prince of Wales, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, on July 15.

Expected to join Mike Fox in the 1o3/16-mile Prince of Wales are Alezzandro, Jiggs Coz, and Daaher, the second- through fourth-place finishers from the Queen's Plate, and Marchfield, who ended up a disappointing sixth.

The Prince of Wales also will be open to supplementary entrants at a cost of $12,500, including the regular $5,000 entry fee. Entries close at 10oa.m. on July 11.

The Prince of Wales program also includes the Daryl Wells Sr. Memorial Stakes and the Ernie Samuel Memorial Stakes. Both are scheduled for five furlongs on turf and offer purses of $50,000.

* Monday's card produced a mutuel bonanza as $3.56omillion was wagered on the 10-race program, a $1.1 million increase over the corresponding card last year.