07/16/2008 11:00PM

Nasty Fever returns to dirt for Cup start

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - The first two Cup races of the Fort Erie meeting will be held on Saturday's eight-race card.

Both the Fort Erie Slots Cup and the Holiday Inn/Fort Erie Cup are worth $25,000, will be run at 1 1/16 miles, and are restricted to runners who have started two or more times at the track this year.

The Fort Erie Slots Cup, for fillies and mares, has drawn a field of eight, led by the 4-year-old Nasty Fever, trained by Nick Gonzalez.

Nasty Fever will be returning to the dirt after finishing first and second on the turf. Her record at 1 1/16 miles is 3 for 5, and Chad Beckon retains the mount.

Intothewilderness, trained by Michael Osborne, has won 6 of her 19 career races and is coming off a resounding nine-length starter allowance victory on the grass.

With Beckon, who was aboard for the turf win, going to Nasty Fever, Dave Garcia will take over aboard Intothewilderness.

The sleeper in the group may be the 3-year-old African Rainbow, who is on the improve and comes off three straight sprint victories for trainer James Woods. Distance will be the question mark and rider Rui Pimentel will be hoping to conserve some of African Rainbow's energy for the final furlong.

The Holiday Inn/Fort Erie Cup has attracted nine geldings.

The very quick Frezacon is returning from a loss on the turf and could make amends as he is far better on the dirt and is 5 for 10 going this distance. Cory Clark, who was aboard for Frezacon's win in his only other start this season, rides.

Solihull, who drew the outside post for trainer Marilyn Johnson, appears to be at the top of his game.

Flat Rock and Northern Cruiser, who breaks from the inside post, appear to be speed threats to Frezacon's pacesetting tactics.

One runner who would love a hot pace is the closer Disbelief, trained by John Simms. Disbelief romped over a sloppy racetrack two races back, and in his most recent on the turf he was closing fast but late.

Handle up for Prince of Wales card

Last Sunday's Prince of Wales Day at the Fort was a success, with an estimated crowd of 5,500 on hand.

Total wagering was up nearly $200,000 from last season, with a handle of $1.33 million on the day.

Local interest in the race centered on Beckon, Fort Erie's leading rider, who was aboard trainer Mike DePaulo's 38-1 longshot Pronger.

Beckon, on the pace along the inside early, turned in a heady ride as he backed off and angled out twice in the final half-mile to have Pronger running on through the final furlong to finish third behind Harlem Rocker and East End Tap and collect $50,000 for owner Mario Forgione.

o Jockey agent Paul Souter has taken the books of riders Chris Griffith and Kris Robinson for the remainder of the 2008 season, as agent Dave O'Connor has moved to Woodbine and is representing Constant Montpellier.