11/08/2007 12:00AM

Monashee's excellence to be tested

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - The presence of the unstoppable Vancouver shipper Monashee in Saturday's $175,000 Maple Leaf Stakes at Woodbine has certainly spiced up the 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares.

Monashee has won her last 11 races, including seven stakes this year, all in Western Canada, and the Sovereign Award for this year's champion older female is probably hers to lose.

Monashee set slow fractions on an uncontested lead when she took her last start, the Grade 3 Ballerina BC Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile race at Hastings.

Trainer Tracy McCarthy said Monashee has taken a shine to the Woodbine backstretch since arriving about two weeks ago.

"She's settled in beautifully," said McCarthy. "We knew that we had to bring her out a little early, to give her some time. She's not a horse who would be happy shipping in just to run.

"I have a lot of faith in this mare. She's done everything that we've put in front of her, and has never really been asked. Now, she's going to have to run against good horses, so we'll see what we have. This is a race we've been gearing towards for the last couple months."

Other than her raw ability, McCarthy said Monashee's main assets are her tactical speed and her ability to relax.

"As quirky as she is in her day-to-day life, when it comes to racing she's very professional," he said. "She can be on the lead. She can be off the lead. She can be boxed in. She's good coming out of the gate, and she can settle quickly. She's very versatile."

The knocks against Monashee are that she's been beating up on weak opposition, and that she's never cracked 90 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale. If she is to win in her first Polytrack start on Saturday, she may have to raise her game a level.

The four other shippers in the 12-horse field are I'm in Love, Cryptoquip, Dancing Band, and Russian Rosie.

I'm in Love, trained Kiaran McLaughlin, is exiting a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Athenia Handicap on the grass at Belmont. Her two Polytrack scores both came in England.

The Graham Motion-trained Cryptoquip earned a career-high 95 Beyer last time, winning the Ohio Distaff Stakes at Beulah.

Turf expert Dancing Band was recently third in a Keeneland allowance. Russian Rosie is winless in seven starts this year.