07/17/2003 12:00AM

'Mysterious' approaches milestone

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Mysterious Affair, bred and owned by trainer Mort Hardy, will return to Woodbine a millionaire if she wins Saturday's $125,000 Rainbow Connection here at Fort Erie.

Run at five furlongs on the turf course, the Rainbow Connection is the third richest of the 21 stakes offered by the Fort in 2003. It's the feature of a stakes tripleheader that is a prelude to Sunday's $500,000 Prince of Wales, the second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown.

Eight will oppose 6-year-old Mysterious Affair in the Rainbow Connection, for Ontario-sired fillies and mares. She has won 11 of her 30 starts with earnings of $938,598.

Mysterious Affair is winless in 2003 but has been competitive in her five starts. Last month at Woodbine, she finished third in two stakes, including the $107,000 Zadracarta, where she was beaten by just three-quarters of a length.

Mysterious Affair finished second in her first two starts of the year and was fourth after a wide trip in the Grade 3 George C. Hendrie in May.

Woodbine-based trainer Reade Baker believes he has a possible upsetter in his 3-year-old Nystar, who has won 2 of 7 starts. He said to forget about Nystar's last race, an experiment in which Baker wanted to see if she could rate.

"We won't Saturday," Baker said. "My filly will go a half in 45 under a hold. I'm surprised there isn't more speed in the race besides Mysterious Affair. Some of these are okay horses, but they don't really have speed."

In one of the two supporting features, the $60,000 Blazing Sevens, Baker will send out the probable favorite in 4-year-old Wolverine. Just four runners were entered in the six-furlong race.

Wolverine was second in an allowance race June 30 in his only start this year, earning a Beyer of 88. That was his first race in 13 months, following surgery.

Baker described Wolverine, a $50,000 yearling buy, as the best-looking horse he has ever trained. Wolverine won his maiden at seven furlongs in his second lifetime start in October 2001.

"He came back last year and won going seven-eighths in a nonwinners-of-two. It was very impressive," said Baker. "And, he was beaten 2 1/2 lengths in the Plate Trial."

But after finishing fourth in the Plate Trial, Wolverine fractured a hind cannon bone during a workout a week before the Queen's Plate. Two screws were inserted to repair the damage and he was given extended time to recover.

Right Stop, trained by Fort Erie-based Tom Agosti, appears to be the main threat to Wolverine

In the third stakes, the $60,000 Lauries Dancer for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles, the Roger Attfield-trained entry of Tuff Chick and Extend head an eight-horse field.

"I may just run Tuff Chick," said Attfield. "She needs to win a stakes. She's stakes placed. We gave her a bit of a break and she's ready to run again."

Tuff Chick has been idle since finishing last in the Banshee Breeze Handicap at Gulfstream Park on April 4.