10/08/2002 12:00AM

Lush Soldier Keeneland-bound for Queen Elizabeth


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Lush Soldier, the talented turf specialist trained at Woodbine by David Bell, is scheduled to start in Saturday's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

The Queen Elizabeth, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, has a purse of $500,000, and participation is by invitation only.

"It'll be a very tough race," said Bell. "But you don't get many chances to run 3-year-old fillies against 3-year-old fillies in a Grade 1. And she ran well there before."

A Florida-bred homebred owned by John Franks, Lush Soldier has finished second in each of her two starts on the Keeneland turf course, in the 1 1/16-mile Green River last October and in the one-mile Appalachian this April.

And Lush Soldier has held her good form on the local turf through the past four months, winning the Alywow at 6 1/2 furlongs on June 1 and most recently finishing third against older rivals Calista and Diadella in the Grade 2 Canadian Handicap over 1 1/8 miles Sept. 8.

"She's in very good shape," Bell said. "She's training well, and doing well."

Silver Nithi's next start coming soon

Silver Nithi, another stakes-winning 3-year-old filly in the Bell barn, could run here in the holiday Monday feature, the $150,000 Carotene.

"We're still kind of on the fence," said Bell. "We could just wait until the Maple Leaf."

The Carotene, for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, is at 1 1/8 miles on the turf while the Grade 3 Maple Leaf, a $175,000 race for fillies and mares, goes at 1 1/4 miles on the main track Nov. 2.

Silver Nithi, a homebred who races for Dick and Jo Ellen Shaw, finished a nose behind Lush Soldier when fourth in the Canadian and returned to the dirt to run fourth against her peers in the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette Sept. 28.

Prince Alphie, Wawota win maiden races

Trainer Josie Carroll, who has several talented 2-year-olds under her shed row, sent out Prince Alphie and Wawota to win their maidens here last weekend.

Prince Alphie, a Kentucky-bred colt owned and bred by Bill Schettine, got the job done at first asking Saturday, winning by 1 1/2 lengths at seven furlongs on the turf.

"It looks like he's going to be a nice colt," said Carroll, "and he's worked equally well on the dirt."

Prince Alphie actually was making his second trip to the post last weekend. He had been entered in a 6 1/2-furlong main track race here Sept. 8, but was a vet scratch at the gate.

"He's always been the most well-mannered horse," said Carroll, "but something startled him. He reared up, and got his leg caught in the gate.

"The vets were being rightly cautious. With nice horses, you want to be on the safe side."

Wawota, an Ontario-bred filly owned and bred by James and Alice Sapara, was making her fourth career start Sunday.

The start was the second on turf for Wawota, who had run third in the second division of the Grade 3 Natalma at a mile here Sept. 7.

Wawota had mixed results in her two main-track outings, finishing a solid second over five furlongs in her debut, but then faltering to finish seventh at six furlongs. "She ran well on dirt the first time, but when she tried to go a little further she started to struggle," said Carroll. "You'll see that with turf horses."

Carroll is not ruling out giving Wawota another chance on the main track.

"She's Canadian-bred," he said, noting the lucrative opportunities that Wawota would have in restricted races on the dirt. "You don't want to close the door on her."

Buffalo Jump targets Oct. 20 Fanfreluche

Buffalo Jump, another Carroll 2-year-old filly, finished third as the favorite in an entry-level allowance over six furlongs here Saturday.

"She came out of there with a bit of a virus," said Carroll. "If she bounces back quickly enough we'll still be able to make the Fanfreluche."

The $150,000 Fanfreluche, a six-furlong race for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies, will be run Oct. 20.

Buffalo Jump finished second to her talented stablemate Handpainted in the six-furlong Ontario Debutante Aug. 11 but then ran seventh in the first division of the Natalma.

BC-bound Chopinina works under Ramsammy

Chopinina, who is scheduled to make her next appearance at Arlington Park on Breeders' Cup Day, worked six furlongs on the main track in 1:15.20 under rider Emile Ramsammy here Tuesday.

The drill was the second for Chopinina since her surprising second-place finish as the lone female in the Sept. 8 Atto Mile.

"I was very happy with that," said Alec Fehr, who trains Chopinina for the Knob Hill Stable of owner/breeder Steve Stavro. "She did it much more willingly than the work last week.

"She was sharp right from the beginning. I worked her with a couple of 2-year-olds and she did everything that was asked of her.

"We want her to sit behind her co-workers, and let her relax, and she seems to be doing it for us. She opened up on them through the lane, beat them by about seven or eight."

Fehr said Chopinina would be entered in both the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf - his preference - and the Breeders' Cup Mile.

El Habanero makes first grass start Thursday

El Habanero, a beaten favorite twice before he won his maiden as the odds-on choice last time out, will switch to the grass for Thursday's headliner, a nonwinners-of-two allowance for Ontario-sired runners.

El Habanero got an impressive 92 Beyer Speed Figure when running a huge race in his second-to-last start but had to settle for second after taking the overland route on an inside-biased track. He seemed to do just enough to win most recently, when he overhauled longshot Bound With Honour in deep stretch to prevail while earning a 78 Beyer.

El Habanero, a half-brother to stakes winner Hot Pepper Hill, has a good turf pedigree. His dam has thrown four grass winners from six starters over that surface and his sire, Whiskey Wisdom, has had some offspring who have taken a shine to the turf.

- Red Sea, winless since capturing a division of the Grade 3 Connaught Cup here in the spring of 2001, heads a 14-horse field of $50,000 claimers in Thursday's eighth race, at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink