06/22/2001 12:00AM

At last, the Plate showdown!


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The aptly named gelding Win City and the royally bred filly Dancethruthedawn, the two best Canadian-bred

3-year-olds in training, will clash in Sunday's $1 million, 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Eight others will contest the 142nd running of the Plate, North America's oldest continually run stakes. It will be the ninth race on an 11-race card, which includes two turf stakes, the Grade 2 Nearctic and the Charlie Barley. The final two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown are the July 22 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie and the Aug. 11 Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine.

Win City has won three consecutive stakes since finishing a troubled third in his seasonal debut in the Achievement Handicap. He overcame traffic problems on the far turn to win the Grade 2 Marine, and is coming off a decisive score in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.

Trainer Bob Tiller is elated with Win City's progress this year.

"I'm very confident that this horse is ready," Tiller said. "He's done everything that we've asked him to do, and has never missed a beat. He's very legit, but he still has to beat the filly and a few others. She gets a big [five-pound] weight break."

Winning the Plate would be a dream come true for Frank DiGiulio Jr., who owns Win City in partnership with the estate of his father, Frank, who died recently at 91 after a long illness.

"I've been coming to the track since I was about 10 with my dad," DiGiulio, 40, said. "We always made a point of coming on Queen's Plate Day. It's always been a big dream to win the race, and it's hard to believe we're this close."

Dancethruthedawn, coupled in the Sam-Son Farm entry with Lucky Scarab, has the right credentials to win the Plate. Her dam, Dance Smartly, won the 1991 Plate after taking the Canadian Oaks, and her full brother, Scatter the Gold, won last year's renewal.

Dancethruthedawn overcame a speed bias to take the 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks with relative ease two weeks ago.

"She overcame a lot in the Oaks," said trainer Mark Frostad. "She was stuck [inside] early, and had to be swung out pretty wide around the far turn. She's still a little green, but I think she learned a lot from that race. She should have no problem going 1 1/4 miles.

Lucky Scarab rallied wide from behind a slow pace to win a

1 1/16-mile maiden event over a muddy track in his fifth start June 3.

While Win City and the entry will likely vie for favoritism, Millennium Allstar will be a clear third choice in the betting.

Millennium Allstar returned from a winter layoff to win the Achievement, and has finished second to Win City in each of his two subsequent outings, including the Plate Trial.

Millennium Allstar has made a habit of waiting on rivals once he makes the lead, which is one of the reasons why Robert Landry rated him well off the early pace before making his move in the Trial.

"We think a horse needs to relax early to go 1 1/4 miles," said trainer Sue Leslie. "[Millennium Allstar] has about a three-eighths of a mile run, and I think we've succeeded in getting him to relax and wait until he's asked to go. [Rob] is going to have to time his move right, and be within a certain distance of the leaders at the right time."

Millennium Allstar, a half-brother to 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet, has gotten lots of media attention because he's owned by popular Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph, in partnership with Leslie and Don Meehan.

Brushing Bully and Dawn Watcher are the likely Plate pacemakers, while Win City, Dancethruthedawn and Millennium Allstar should all be within five or six lengths of the leaders in the early going, setting up a much anticipated stretch run between the principal players.