03/27/2003 12:00AM

Mapp Hill seeking elusive victory

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mapp Hill and Expected Flirt, both nominated to the April 6 Jacques Cartier Stakes, will meet former champion Mr. Epperson and classy Praise From Dixie in the sixth race Saturday, a rare weekend card at Woodbine without a stakes race.

Devil Valentine, Line of Defense, and Four Alert were also entered in the $80,000 optional claimer, which will be run at five furlongs for a purse of $67,200.

Mapp Hill, a 4-year-old owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, captured the 2001 Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds. He also won a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight sprint and a seven-furlong allowance at 2 that season.

Mapp Hill, who was winless in three 2002 starts, has been third twice in three outings this year, all in six-furlong, $75,000 optional claimers at Fair Grounds. His trainer-rider combo, Josie Carroll and Patrick Husbands, teamed up to take a five-furlong allowance on opening day with Fair Grounds shipper Lead by Example.

Expected Flirt, a bargain $60,000 claim by trainer Bob Tiller in September, capped his 2002 campaign with three straight scores in allowance and upper-claiming company. He won 5 of 12 starts on the year, while earning $208,495.

Ray Sabourin replaces Husbands aboard Expected Flirt, a closer who would prefer a longer sprint.

Mr. Epperson landed the 2001 Sovereign Award as champion sprinter on the strength of his three stakes triumphs on dirt and turf. He had a subpar season last year at age 7, recording just one allowance win in nine starts.

Trainer Scott Fairlie is equipping Mr. Epperson with blinkers.

Mr. Epperson is coupled with late-running Line of Defense, who is also returning from a winter layoff. James McKnight was named on both.

Praise From Dixie, who was placed first via disqualification in the 2001 Kennedy Road Stakes, also had a bit of a lean year in 2002, winning once in nine starts.

Trainer Norm McKnight had Praise From Dixie work five furlongs twice earlier this month. Steven Bahen, who bagged a triple on opening day, has the call.

Devil Valentine had a stellar 2001 campaign, during which he won two Ontario sire stakes, the Sir Barton, and Deputy Minister. He was winless in eight starts last year and would appear to be prepping for a longer race.

Four Alert, a middle-distance specialist, is shortening up from 1 1/16 miles off a second-place finish in a $45,000 claimer at Aqueduct.

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