08/02/2002 11:00PM

Light field prompts Buck to change plans

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Slowly but surely, the prospective field for Monday's Victoriana Stakes diminished this week.

First it was Nymphenburg, the defending champion in the race, who was forced into retirement by injury.

Then Devastating, a multiple stakes winner, was taken out of consideration and pointed toward Saratoga's upcoming Ballerina.

Finally, Classic Ingrid, a stakes-placed filly in good form, suffered an untimely physical setback.

Bev Buck, owner and trainer of Branksome Hall, watched the Victoriana unravel and made new plans for the holiday Monday. Instead of running Branksome Hall in the Laurie's Dancer at Fort Erie, Buck decided to run her in the Victoriana.

Buck's decision was influenced by the fact she will send out Judge Me Ifyoucan in Monday's Wonder Where here.

"I don't want to split the troops," she said.

Branksome Hall, a 5-year-old mare, comes into the Victoriana with four wins in 36 starts but has finished in the money 14 times and has earned $260,892.

Her best efforts came on turf here in September of 2000, when she finished second in the La Prevoyante and third in the Wonder Where. But Branksome Hall's two wins last year came over 5 1/2 furlongs at Fort Erie and she is 0 for 6 this year.

"She's doing good," said Buck. "She's never looked better, but she's never really run worse."

Branksome Hall is coming off a fourth-place finish in Fort Erie's Rainbow Connection, a five-furlong turf race July 16, and Buck is reluctant to predict how she will handle Monday's stretch-out.

"A mile and a sixteenth would have been ace for her as a 3-year-old," said Buck. "Now, she seems to want to sprint.

"You tell me - I can't read her mind anymore. I just know she's my girl, and whatever she wants to do Monday is fine with me. She doesn't owe me anything."

Chantal Sutherland retains the mount on Branksome Hall, who looks to stand as good a chance as any in a fairly unfathomable race.

Ariel's Melody, the only 3-year-old in the lineup, enters the Victoriana off a troubled second-place finish in a first-level allowance over seven furlongs of turf.

Royal Dalliance comes off a distant third-place finish in the Kamar, but a repeat of either of her two turf efforts in June would stand her in good stead here.

Bravely fastest Breeders' worker

Six Canadian-bred 3-year-olds trained over the E.P. Taylor turf course here Saturday morning in a special session limited to nominees to the Breeders' Stakes.

The $500,000 Breeders', the 1 1/2-mile turf race that is the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, will be run here next Saturday.

Bravely, who finished a strong second in Fort Erie's Prince of Wales Stakes over 1 3/16 miles on the main track July 21, earned the best time of four horses who worked six furlongs in company.

With jockey Jake Barton in the irons, Bravely was clocked in 1:13.20. His workmates, all from Sam-Son Farm, were Portcullis (1:14), Quiet Colony (1:14.40), and Mountain Beacon (1:14.60).

Portcullis will be seeking his third straight turf stakes win in the Breeders' after capturing the one-mile Charlie Barley here June 23 and the 1 1/8-mile Toronto Cup July 13.

Quiet Colony, a maiden, finished second over 1 1/4 miles of turf here July 13 in his second career start. Mountain Beacon finished third in his turf debut in a 1 3/8-mile first-level allowance here the same afternoon.

Questing Knight, a troubled fourth in the Prince of Wales, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 under jockey Patrick Husbands. Aspen Ridge, who won his maiden over a mile of turf here July 5 and then finished fourth in a first-level allowance over 1 1/8 miles of grass July 27, galloped under jockey Constant Montpellier.

* Jockey Shane Ellis has been fined $100 for "raising up well before the wire" aboard his mount, third-place finisher Heyahohowdy, in the closing stages of last Wednesday's Eternal Search Stakes.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will be holding its monthly meeting here Wednesday, beginning at 8 p.m. in the second-floor International Room.