09/08/2004 11:00PM

La Trillium climbs the ladder


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The unbeaten La Trillium will try to take her game to the next level in Saturday's Grade 3, $136,500 Seaway Stakes at Woodbine.

The seven-furlong dash for fillies and mares has lured a first-rate field of seven, including two imposing Bob Tiller-trained runners, Winter Garden and Brass in Pocket.

La Trillium, a late-developing 4-year-old by Deputy Commander, has made each of her three starts at seven furlongs. She didn't debut until June 19, when she won a maiden special weight event by 11 1/2 lengths while earning an impressive 99 Beyer Figure.

La Trillium had to work a lot harder to win her next outing, a $25,000 optional claimer. After surrendering the lead to Elusive A.C. early in the stretch, she rallied to prevail with a 92 Beyer.

In a second-tier allowance Aug. 7, La Trillium stalked the early pace and made a rail bid on the turn. She took control at the head of the stretch, then coasted to an easy victory, and was credited with a 93 Beyer.

La Trillium spent last winter at Payson Park in Florida, and was stabled at Fort Erie until recently because of the "kinder" racing surface there, said. trainer Paul Nielsen. Getting her to the races proved to be quite a chore, he said.

"It took me that long to get her to the races, because she had her share of problems over the years," Nielsen said. "I came very close to giving up on her a couple of times, but she always showed enough talent to keep going with her."

Nielsen said he plans on stretching out La Trillium after the Seaway.

"Seven-eighths is a decent distance for her, but I don't think it's her best," Nielsen said. "I think she'll go two turns. In her last race, she actually showed that she could relax nicely and then finish. The condition book hasn't worked out the way I wanted, but we're going to go two turns with her eventually."

According to Nielsen, La Trillium has trained encouragingly heading into the Seaway.

"In her last breeze, she went five-eighths in 1:00.40, and did it very nicely," Nielsen said. "It's a step up, but I think she has a chance. She was lacking seasoning and experience, but now she's got a few races under her belt."

Winter Garden has won her last three races, averaging a 96 Beyer. She took the allowance prep for the Seaway over two-time Seaway winner El Prado Essence, who was second in last year's running.