10/23/2001 12:00AM

Mysterious Affair off until next year

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mysterious Affair dominated the filly-mare sprint ranks here this spring, rattling off four straight wins before going to the sidelines because of injury in mid-June.

Her owner-trainer, Mort Hardy, had hoped to have Mysterious Affair back for a fall campaign, which would have included this Saturday's Ontario Fashion Handicap. But Mysterious Affair, a daughter of Mysterious Vice and Miss Blue Bell, won't race again until next year, when she is 5.

"She had a little bit of a knee problem," said Hardy. "With two months rest, she was really good. I thought if two months would make her good, six months would make her a lot better."

Hardy said Mysterious Affair will spend the winter at trainer Catherine Day's farm and should be back at the track in March.

Mysterious Affair, with victories in the Whimsical, George C. Hendrie, and Ballade, and earnings of $288,789, would have been a cinch for filly-mare sprinter honors if a Sovereign Award for that category existed.

Having never faced males, she will likely receive limited support in the sprinter category. But she could be prominent in the balloting for top older filly-mare, a category which the sprinter Saoirse won last year.

Mr. Epperson to Big Apple

Mr. Epperson, a leading candidate for the Sovereign Award as Canada's champion sprinter, is bound for Belmont Park and Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Sport Page.

A 6-year-old gelding trained by Scott Fairlie, Mr. Epperson will be seeking his third straight stakes win in the Sport Page, a 6 1/2-furlong handicap that kicks off the World Thoroughbred Championship card. Regular rider Jim McKnight has the mount.

"They better be tied on, because he's in really good shape," said Fairlie, who also owns Mr. Epperson in partnership with his father, Robert Fairlie, and Brian Brolley and Ron Marlowe.

Union Place back on turf

Union Place, who reaffirmed his dislike for the main track here in the Oct. 8 Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes, should enjoy going back to the grass in Thursday's feature, a one-mile allowance for 2-year-olds.

Union Place failed to win in his first three starts, which were on the dirt at Pimlico and Saratoga, when he was trained by Dale Capuano. He was second to Miesque's Approval after leading until deep stretch when Capuano ran him on the Saratoga turf in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special Aug. 13.

Union Place graduated on the front end 13 days later at the Spa, covering 1 1/16 miles in a quick 1:41.80 and earning an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.

Union Place was then shipped here for the Grade 2 Summer Stakes, a one-mile turf race that came up very tough. He dueled through rapid early fractions before weakening in the final furlong, and finished eighth.

Most recently in the Grade 1 Grey, Union Place finished 11 lengths back after stalking the early pace in his first start for trainer Cliff Hopmans Jr.

On Thursday, David Clark will ride Union Place, who will break from post 1 as the 122-pound highweight.

Lining up outside Union Place will be Tails of the Crypt, Pocket Knife, Excellabet, First Class Honors, Governor Jeb, Highland Ocean, Eclipsio, and Bethestar.

David's Expectation, Recite, and Sundar were entered for the main track only.

A work for the road

A Fleets Dancer breezed five furlongs in 1:04.20 on a fast training track under rider Robert Landry at Woodbine on Tuesday morning and then hopped on a van for Belmont, where he will run in the Breeders' Cup Classic for owner Cam Allard and trainer Roger Attfield.

Attfield also sent out Free Vacation and Red Sea to each work five furlongs in preparation for Sunday's Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap, a $150,000 turf race here over 1 3/8 miles.

Free Vacation, a 5-year-old mare who will be offered for sale next month at Keeneland, was clocked in 1:02.40. She is owned by Attfield in partnership with Bill Werner and Mickey Canino.

Red Sea, a 5-year-old gelding who runs for Newgate Stud, went in 1:00.80, the fastest of seven workers of the distance.

Poetically, whom Attfield trains for the Kinghaven Farm of David Willmot, worked four furlongs in 49.60 seconds and is to make her next start in the $135,000 Jammed Lovely, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies here Nov. 4.

Advance Championships betting

Advance wagering on Saturday's World Thoroughbred Championships and Woodbine cards will be available ontrack and at the teletheatres Friday after 12:30 p.m. Telephone wagering will open at 6 p.m.

Brian Williams and Jim Bannon will host the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's coverage of the World Thoroughbred Championships, which will air from 1-6 p.m. The CBC picks up the NBC feed with Williams and Bannon adding Canadian content.

Auction on Sunday

The Equine Research Centre's annual Day at the Races, which is designed to raise funds for horse research and industry education, will take place here Sunday.

The ERC is accepting early bids on five Thoroughbred stallion services, which will be available in the silent auction portion of the program here Sunday. The deadline for early bids is 12 p.m. Saturday.

The stallions involved are Highland Ruckus, Porto Foricos, Wonneberg, Regal Discovery, and Bold N' Flashy.

For additional information visit the website at www.erc.on/cyber.

* "Woodbine Post Time on Sportsnet" will air in Canada Thursday and Friday, with both 90-minute shows beginning at 1:30 p.m. On Sunday, the Coronation Futurity will be featured in a one-hour telecast beginning at 4 p.m. on Sportsnet National.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink