06/26/2003 12:00AM

'Maple' overshadows males

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Maple Syrple, a filly facing males, figures to be the heavy favorite in Saturday's $166,500 Clarendon Stakes, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds at Woodbine.

Maple Syrple, a $350,000 2-year-old purchase by Team Valor Stable and Robert Wilson, was a dazzling first-out winner May 31. She won that 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight sprint by eight lengths under Patrick Husbands, and was awarded a Beyer Speed Figure of 83.

Trainer Mark Casse said he believes Maple Syrple had something left in the tank.

"Patrick said she was running along, and he wasn't sure what he had under him," Casse said. "He said he clucked to her at about the eighth pole, and she dropped down about six inches and took off. That's where she went from being a length in front to being eight in front."

Casse entered Maple Syrple against fillies last Saturday in the five-furlong My Dear Stakes, but said he scratched her to avoid a confrontation with Nashinda, perhaps the best 2-year-old on the grounds.

"She scrambles a little bit when she comes away from the gate," Casse noted. "We thought an extra sixteenth of a mile would help her, and we thought that if [Nashinda] broke running, and if our filly broke scrambling, then we'd be at a big disadvantage.

"I think her and Nashinda have been the two most impressive 2-year-old winners at the meeting," Casse added. "Since I had other options, I didn't feel there was any reason for them to meet yet. I like the timing of this race."

According to Casse, if Maple Syrple runs a big race, Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, wants to run her back on opening day, July 23, at Saratoga in the Grade 2 Schuylerville Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 2-year-old fillies.

Casse also entered Liberatedbyforce, who broke slowly before finishing a distant fourth when he debuted June 14 in the five-furlong Victoria Stakes. He ended up being placed third by disqualification.

Besides Maple Syrple, Imperial Alydeed is the only other winner in the field. He won his career debut at 4 1/2 furlongs in mediocre time, then finished far back in the Victoria. Mort Hardy trains Imperial Alydeed, who is going on Lasix.

Langburg, one of three Roger Attfield-trained runners in the field, was a respectable fourth when he debuted in a quick five-furlong maiden special weight sprint on June 7.

Completing the Clarendon lineup are Saluda, Elusive Knight, Just in Case Jimmy, and Gold Gunner.