11/04/2002 1:00AM

Lady Shari steals the spotlight


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes was billed as the supporting feature here last Saturday on a card that included the richer Coronation Futurity.

But the Maple Leaf may be the race more remembered come Sovereign Award time because of Lady Shari's impressive victory over older fillies and mares in the $247,750, 1 1/4-mile race.

Lady Shari, a 3-year-old owned by her trainer, Dave Cotey, in partnership with Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith, was recording her second stakes win of the season in the Maple Leaf. The first was in Northlands Park's 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby, a Grade 3 race in which she defeated males.

Both stakes scores came under jockey Constant Montpellier, who also was the winning rider in the Coronation Futurity and in Sunday's Jammed Lovely.

"[Lady Shari's] game is a mile and a quarter and up," said Cotey. "She always fit that, but there's nothing much around here for her."

Lady Shari, whose local opportunities also are limited by the fact she is a Kentucky-bred, entered the Maple Leaf off a third-place finish behind Mulrainy in the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette.

Cotey, who already has accompanied Lady Shari on trips to Delaware, New York, Edmonton, and Vancouver, could be heading to Kentucky with the filly later this month.

Her race there would be the $250,000 Falls City, a Grade 2 for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs Nov. 28.

But Lady Shari's exploits have piqued the interest of at least one prospective U.S. purchaser, who approached Cotey after the La Lorgnette.

"I wanted to run her there [in the Maple Leaf] before I did anything," said Cotey. "I'd have to get some serious money for her."

Spanish Decree burns a little more brightly

Mulrainy also had finished ahead of Lady Shari when running third in both the Selene and Wilderness Song, in which Lady Shari ended fifth and fourth.

But Mulrainy's Sovereign Award aspirations suffered a bit of a setback Sunday when she finished third to Spanish Decree in the Jammed Lovely, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

An Ontario-sired filly owned, trained, and bred by Frank Huarte, Spanish Decree has been one of the unsung heroines of her division.

Spanish Decree also won the Lady Angela, a seven-furlong race here April 21, and placed in five other stakes, at distances ranging from six furlongs on the main track to a mile on turf.

Her lone off-the-board finish this year came in the 1 1/16 mile Selene, a Grade 1 race in which she was sixth behind invader See How She Runs, but was beaten just four lengths by locally based runner-up Ginger Gold.

"She's been a model of consistency for us," said Frank Huarte Jr., an assistant to his father.

"She can run on turf and dirt, inside horses or outside horses, and she can rate or stay on the lead. We're really, really happy with her."

Spanish Decree had come into the Jammed Lovely off a five-week freshening which was designed to produced a peak effort.

"We wanted her sharp," said Huarte Jr. "She's had a hard campaign."

Right decision for Arco's Gold

Trainer John Ross thought long and hard before entering Arco's Gold in the $250,000 Coronation Futurity, the 1 1/8-mile race that is this country's premier test for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds.

It was Arco's Gold's lack of two-turn experience, and not his talent, which was at issue as the colt had run very well while capturing his first two starts over 6 1/2 and seven furlongs.

"My concern was the mile and an eighth," said Ross. "His full brother, Adjalah, doesn't seem to want to go a distance and that was kind of a concern."

Ross credits Kelly Regan, agent for Montpellier, with influencing his decision to run in the Coronation rather than waiting for the 1 1/16-mile Display two weeks later.

"He did his homework," said Ross. "He said there wouldn't be more than seven horses [in the Coronation]. When you get a big race like that, with only seven horses in it, you've got to take a look at it."

The rest was up to Arco's Gold, who rallied to dead-heat for first place with the more experienced Mobil.

And it got even better for the Ross camp when Arco's Gold wound up as the lone winner after the stewards noted he had been smacked on the nose by the errant whip of Mobil's rider, Todd Kabel.

"When they get hit on the nose, a lot of horses would back away," said Ross. "He showed a little courage, and stood in there.

"Mobil is a very good horse, and I'm proud of the way Arco's Gold handled his first time going two turns.

"It's too bad about the situation down the lane, but that's racing."

* Arco's Gold, purchased for $110,000 at the local select yearling sale, is the first horse owned by Alex DiIorio, and his son, Steven.

"We're going to put him away for the rest of the year," said Ross, who will take Arco's Gold to Florida to prepare for a 2003 campaign which he hopes will include the Queen's Plate.

"He's done everything we've asked of him. We're going to try to fight off that situation, where the Coronation winner doesn't do anything [in the Queen's Plate]."

Parental Pressure was the last Coronation winner to finish in the money in the Plate, running third in 1994. Norcliffe was the last horse to win both races, in 1975 and 1976.

* Chantal Sutherland will be serving a three-day suspension, beginning Wednesday, after the stewards ruled she came in with her mount, Lenny the Lender, and interfered with Wolf Howl during the stretch run of last Thursday's eighth race. Lenny the Lender finished first but was disqualified and placed eighth.