07/27/2004 12:00AM

My Vintage Port tries top two again

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - My Vintage Port has shadowed Eye of the Sphynx and Touchnow while finishing third in each of the first two legs of the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

In the Woodbine Oaks, the 1 1/8-mile first leg of the triple on June 13, My Vintage Port finished 13 1/4 lengths behind winner Eye of the Sphynx and nine behind runner-up Touchnow.

In the 1 1/16-mile Bison City at Fort Erie, the second leg of the series, My Vintage Port was beaten two lengths by the winner Touchnow and 1 3/4 lengths by Eye of the Sphynx.

Ken Parsley, who trains My Vintage Port and is a co-owner along with Rick Pettifer, hopes his filly can burst into the spotlight when the series switches to turf here Saturday for the 1 1/4-mile Wonder Where.

"I expect her to run as good as last time," said Parsley. "The mile and a quarter won't be a problem. She'll relax; she has a nice kick."

My Vintage Port won three stakes last year in a campaign that earned her Canada's 2-year-old filly championship. She will be making her second start on turf in the Wonder Where, having finished last of nine in her 2004 debut in the one-mile Appalachian at Keeneland.

"We'll give her the benefit of the doubt for that race," said Parsley, who watched My Vintage Port work five furlongs in 59.40 seconds over a "good" training track turf course here Sunday.

Regular rider Jono Jones was aboard for My Vintage Port's drill, which she did in company and without blinkers.

Parsley had added blinkers to My Vintage Port's equipment for the Bison City, and while not displeased by the results, he does not plan to repeat the experiment.

"They kept her a little more focused," said Parsley. "But I don't want her on the engine at a mile and a quarter."

Eye of the Sphynx and Touchnow back, too

Eye of the Sphynx and Touchnow also are scheduled to run back in the Wonder Where, in which both will be making their turf debut.

Others eyeing the Wonder Where include Velvet Snow and Moment of Peace, the first and third finishers in the Ontario Damsel over 6 1/2 furlongs on turf July 10; Nomistakeaboutit, coming off a fourth-place finish in a first-level allowance at 1 1/4 miles on grass June 26; Sheer Enchantment, who won her maiden over 1 1/4 miles of turf July 4; and Oriental Doll, who finished sixth in a second-level allowance for Ontario-sired fillies and mares over seven furlongs on turf July 1.

Oriental Doll should like the distance

Oriental Doll was making her first start on turf that day, and fell back 18 lengths behind a rapid pace before finishing well to end seven lengths back.

"She ran a decent race on the turf; she handled it fine," said trainer Dave Cotey, who watched Oriental Doll breeze three furlongs in 38.20 seconds on a muddy main track Tuesday.

"She was really running strong on end, and she galloped out well," he said

Cotey, who co-owns Oriental Doll in partnership with Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith, sent out Oriental Doll to her maiden win at 1 1/16 miles here June 3, and believes the Wonder Where distance will be to her benefit.

"The mile and a quarter should suit her," Cotey said. "She can fall out of it, relax, and come with a run."

Strike Em Hard points to Breeders'

Cotey also hopes to run Strike Em Hard in the $500,000 Breeders', the 1 1/2-mile turf stakes and final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown here Aug. 8.

In his only turf outing, a seven-furlong maiden special in his first lifetime start here last Aug. 10, Strike Em Hard finished eighth.

"He was just a big, green horse," said Cotey. "He didn't really run any better on dirt, in his next race. So, I don't know if he can turf or not, but it's something we'll just have to take a shot on. The way he closed the other day, he should get the mile and a half."

Owned by Cotey, Ball, Galbraith, and Gregg Peacock, Strike Em Hard finished sixth in the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here June 27 but returned Sunday with a strong second-place finish in a second-level allowance for 3-year-olds and upward.

The 1 3/4-length winner of that 1 1/16-mile race was Organ Grinder, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old who won the 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park Stakes here June 13.

Strike Em Hard's Beyer Speed Figure for Sunday's race was 93, a 15-point improvement over his previous best.

Cotey said the effort was even more impressive considering that Strike Em Hard had suffered a cut while being re-shod for the race, and almost was scratched.

"He ran on the same lead the whole race," said Cotey. "And that was his best race by a long, long ways."

Strike Em Hard had been battling a blood disorder in the weeks prior to the Plate and spent a week freshening up at the farm before returning to training.

"He's been a lot more aggressive since he came back," said Cotey.

Strike Em Hard also raced with blinkers Sunday for the first time since his seasonal debut, and Cotey believes that contributed to his improved performance.