07/17/2001 11:00PM

Mr. Epperson to try Bold Venture again

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mr. Epperson will be taking his third crack at the Bold Venture Saturday at Woodbine.

And Mr. Epperson, a 6-year-old gelding who earned his first stakes victory in his 38th and most recent start here in the Nearctic, should be firing his best shot once again in this 6 1/2-furlong handicap.

"He's doing exceptionally well," said trainer Scott Fairlie. "He's on a confidence roll."

Fairlie also notched his first stakes win in the June 24 Nearctic and is a co-owner of Mr. Epperson along with his father, Robert, and partners Brian Brolley and Ronald Marlow. Fairlie claimed Mr. Epperson for $50,000 here April 30, 1999. Twelve weeks later, in his first start for his new connections, the gelding was beaten just a half-length by One Way Love as the runner-up in the Bold Venture.

Mr. Epperson went on to start six more times that season, winning twice and finishing second in both the Play the King and Kennedy Road and third in the Highlander.

His reputation as a hard-luck stakes performer continued last year as Mr. Epperson ran third in both the Nearctic and Play the King, both on the turf. That campaign, cut short by a splint problem, consisted of only five appearances and included his second Bold Venture, where he finished sixth behind One Way Love.

"He was in good form, and actually I thought I had a good shot of beating One Way Love," said Fairlie. "But they kind of ambushed him on the backside, and he displaced his palate."

This year, Mr. Epperson led off with a fourth-place finish behind Wake at Noon and Exciting Story in the Jacques Cartier.

But then Fairlie took the blinkers off Mr. Epperson for his next start, and the horse has racked up three straight victories, capped by his finest hour in the Nearctic.

"It was just a matter of him maturing," said Fairlie. "He's really filled out; he looks better than he's ever looked.

"The blinkers coming off probably helped a bit, too. It was a combination of both things."

That maturity and the change in equipment also could be seen as contributors to Mr. Epperson's altered and very effective running style, which he has displayed both on the main track and while switching to turf for the Nearctic.

"Before, he was like bait on the engine all the time," said the trainer. "You'd shake off a couple of horses, then somebody would come and get you late."

Now Mr. Epperson is doing the getting, coming from just off the pace under regular rider Jim McKnight while recording three of the four best Beyer Speed Figures of his career.

Mr. Epperson will begin from post 2 under 117 pounds in the Bold Venture, which attracted a surprise entrant in Met Mile winner Exciting Story.

Jockey Patrick Husbands has been named to both Exciting Story, who would be the 123-pound highweight, and Prime Timber, who would be making his seasonal bow.

Rounding out the field will be Tempered Appeal, Crucible, and Catahoula Parish.

Philly BC next for Wake at Noon

Wake at Noon, who topped the Bold Venture weights list at 124 pounds, is to make his next appearance in the July 28 Philadelphia Park Breeders' Cup.

A 4-year-old colt owned by Bruno Schickedanz and trained by Abraham Katryan, Wake at Noon is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 True North, a six-furlong handicap at Belmont June 9.

Regular rider David Clark will pilot Wake at Noon in the $200,000 Philadelphia Park BC, a six-furlong, Grade 3 handicap.

Delaware, Jersey options for Poetically

Clark also could be traveling this Saturday, as Poetically, owned by Kinghaven Farm and trained by Roger Attfield, has been entered in the Grade 3, $250,000 Delaware Oaks.

Canada's champion 2-year-old filly last year, Poetically has seen action just twice in 2001 and is coming off a second-place finish behind Quick Blue in Fort Erie's Bison City.

Quick Blue, owned by Joseph Lacombe and trained by Linda Rice, also is entered in the Delaware Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile race that drew a field of 14 including Eclipse Award-winning juvenile filly Caressing. Emile Ramsammy, who rode Quick Blue in the Bison City and here in the Canadian Oaks, has the call.

Attfield, who watched Poetically breeze five furlongs in 1:00.80 under Clark on the fast main track here Wednesday, will be shipping the filly to Delaware but is keeping his options open.

"I'm sure we'll find some of these horses might not run and go to the Monmouth Oaks next week, which is the same situation that we're sitting in," said Attfield.

The Monmouth Oaks, also worth $250,000, is a Grade 2 race at 1 1/8 miles.

* A Fleets Dancer, winner of the Dominion Day Handicap here in his last start for Attfield, is bound for Arlington Park and Saturday's $400,000 Washington Park Handicap, a Grade 2 race over 1 1/4 miles. Robert Landry will ride A Fleets Dancer, a 6-year-old who worked five furlongs in 1:02 on the main track Wednesday.

* Three candidates for Sunday's $250,000 Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy drilled on the main track Wednesday. Kimberlite Pipe breezed four furlongs in 47.60 seconds while Allende was clocked in 48.60 seconds, handily, and Muntej breezed five furlongs in 1:03. The Grade 2 Hong Kong Trophy is a 1 3/8 mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward.