08/12/2002 11:00PM

Lady Shari may take on the boys

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Dave Cotey is one of the rare Woodbine-based trainers who will cast an eye westward when the occasion seems appropriate.

So it should come as no surprise that Cotey has nominated both Lady Shari and Mind Body Soul to Northlands Park's Aug. 24 Canadian Derby, a 1 3/8-mile race that offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $150,000.

"Right now, I'm leaning toward running Lady Shari," said Cotey, who co-owns the filly under his Dominion Bloodstock banner along with his usual partners, Hugh Galbraith and Derek Ball.

"If she ran really well, and came out of it okay, I'd fly her home and then fly her back out for the British Columbia Oaks." The B.C. Oaks is run at Hastings Park on Sept. 7.

Cotey's first taste of western Canadian racing came as an owner, in 1999, when Wafare Warrior shipped to Assiniboia Downs and won the Pan-Am Derby Trial and the Manitoba Derby. Wafare Warrior, trained by Sandy McPherson, later finished off the board in Northlands's Canadian Derby and Assiniboia's Gold Breeders' Cup.

Last year, his first as a full-fledged trainer, Cotey won the Manitoba Derby with Stage Classic, who went on to finish second in the Canadian Derby and fourth in the British Columbia Derby while returning home between trips.

Stage Classic certainly showed no ill effects from his travels, as he closed out his 2001 campaign here by defeating older rivals over 1 3/8 miles on turf in the Grade 2 Sky Classic.

And while he was rather slow to find his best stride this season, Stage Classic was back in the winner's circle here last Sunday after a courageous front-running win in a 1 3/8-mile turf allowance that was a prep for the Aug. 31 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"Nobody wanted the lead. He just ended up there," said Cotey, adding that foot problems and a dislike of hot weather have held up Stage Classic this season.

"We just wanted to get position with him. He hasn't got a huge kick - he's a strong one-paced horse."

Stage Classic is slated to swing back in the $300,000 Niagara, a 1 1/2-mile turf race that will have Grade 1 status for the first time.

In the meantime Lady Shari, despite her gender, has the credentials to give Cotey and company their first Canadian Derby victory.

Lady Shari became a Grade 1 winner in the 1 1/16-mile Mazarine here last fall and then finished up her campaign with second-place finishes in the Polly Drummond at Delaware Park and the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct.

But her form has been compromised by back problems, and this year she only has an allowance win and a third-place finish in the Star Shoot to show for six starts.

That she was bred in Kentucky has limited Lady Shari's local opportunities, which is one reason Cotey tried her on the grass last Friday even though she had been soundly beaten in her only previous outing on the grass, at 2. Lady Shari immediately dropped back to last under jockey Jake Barton on Friday and finished a distant eighth in the field of nine.

"She obviously doesn't like turf," said Cotey. "But I can't even say I'm disappointed. I went into it very open-minded."

Cotey had reasoned that other factors could have accounted for Lady Shari's dismal performance in her previous turf outing, and felt she deserved another chance.

"Last year, there were a lot of things wrong," he said. "But she went into the race the other day absolutely perfect. That's the last turf race she'll ever run."

Mind Body Soul to try McLaughlin

Mind Body Soul, a Kentucky-bred who was a game winner of a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles here last Thursday, will be pointed to the $150,000 Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Handicap, an open one-mile race for 3-year-olds here Sept. 14.

"And somewhere along the line, we'll have to give him a shot on grass," said Cotey.

Mind Body Soul's dam, Flew By Em, also produced the talented turf sprinter Joe's Son Joey, who was an unlucky second when he came from New Jersey for the Nearctic Handicap here June 23.

Tackling Stress will tackle grass

Cotey also has a solid 2-year-old stakes prospect in Tackling Stress, who won his maiden by 9 3/4 lengths at five furlongs in his June 23 debut and then finished second in the six-furlong Colin here July 14.

Tackling Stress, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02 on the main track here Tuesday, is slated to try the grass in Sunday's seven-furlong prep for the $250,000 Summer Stakes.

"If he handles turf all right, he'll go in the Summer," said Cotey. "If not, he'll go in the Swynford."

The Grade 2 Summer will be run over a mile here Sept. 8, Atto Mile Day. The Swynford, worth $125,000, is a seven-furlong race here Sept. 22.

Goldies Legacy preps for Vandal

Tuesday's main-track workers also included Goldies Legacy, who breezed five furlongs in 59.60 seconds under jockey Patrick Husbands and is the horse to beat here in Sunday's Vandal.

Goldies Legacy, owned by Bob Harvey and Ken Henwood and trained by Sid Attard, will seek his second win in as many outings in the $150,000 Vandal, a six-furlong race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds.

Meche fined for cruelty

Donnie Meche has been fined $500 "for an act of cruelty" toward his mount, Gilded Wings, following last Saturday's Duchess Stakes.

The stewards ruled Meche had kneed Gilded Wings in the belly and struck her about the head during the unsaddling process.

Gilded Wings, who had shipped in from Saratoga, finished seventh as the second favorite in the field of eight.

Bonnie's Prize's time has come

Bonnie's Prize, coming off three straight second-place finishes, could finally win at the first allowance condition in Thursday's Woodbine feature.

Bonnie's Prize's streak of seconds began with a loss to stakes winner Atlantic Fury June 28. In her next appearance, on July 14, she ended up 1 1/2 lengths behind unbeaten Hot Talent, who won the Wonder Where Stakes in her next outing.

Most recently, in a 1 1/8-mile race taken off the grass, Bonnie's Prize stalked a slow pace before coming out on the short end of a win photo with front-running Ghazirella.

Trainer C.C. Hopmans Jr. will give Chantal Sutherland a leg up on Bonnie's Prize, a 4-year-old by Prized.

Also entered in the one-mile turf race for fillies and mares were Marjorie Daw, Noble Strike, Miss Alexis, Borntobeloved, Serena's Lady, Princess Atta, and Fancy Beauty.

Noble Strike, second to Sweetest Thing in the 2001 Wonder Where, will be on Lasix Thursday in her first start of the year. Her lone victory came at a mile over this course last summer, which came on the heels of a narrow loss to Bonnie's Prize in a maiden race.

Thursday's race will be Noble Strike's first start for trainer Ron Burke.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink