10/21/2005 12:00AM

Nearctic distance right up Langfleur's alley

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Langfleur's unbeaten record at six furlongs over Woodbine's turf course will be on the line in Sunday's Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic Stakes.

Langfleur, a 5-year-old trained by Mike Keogh, won his maiden and an allowance going six furlongs on the grass here last year. After fracturing his pelvis in September 2004, Langfleur was sidelined for over a year, but returned to action with a front-running score in the six-furlong allowance prep for the Nearctic.

Keogh said he entered and scratched Langfleur from an optional claimer in September, when the race was taken off the grass. "I didn't want to run him on the dirt," Keogh said.

Keogh said he felt the allowance prep didn't take too much out of Langfleur and said he is hoping for some rain to soften up the course Sunday. "I think he really likes a yielding turf," he said.

The Nearctic has lured a competitive field of 12, including Vanderlin, Steel Light, L'Oiseau d'Argent, Frank's Selection, and Old Dodge.

Vanderlin has made quite a splash since shipping here from England in August. He upset the seven-furlong Play the King Handicap and then finished a troubled fourth in the Grade 1 Atto Mile, 9 3/4 lengths behind Leroidesanimaux. Two weeks ago, Vanderlin lost a heartbreaker in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, where he was beaten a neck by Host.

Richard Hughes rode Vanderlin for trainer Andrew Balding in the Shadwell, subbing for regular rider Martin Dwyer.

"I spoke to Andrew on the phone before the race, and he told me to 'ride with your shoes tied on,' " said Hughes. "He didn't want me to hang back and just make one run and finish third. We were in good position, and he liked the softer turf. It just wasn't enough."

Dwyer will be back in the saddle Sunday.

Steel Light should be well backed off his third-place finish behind Leroidesanimaux in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga. He followed that with a win in a seven-furlong optional claimer Sept. 24 at Belmont. Steel Light has only one start at six furlongs, however, a fourth at Ireland in June 2003.

L'Oiseau d'Argent also has just one start at six furlongs, and his last 14 have been at a mile or farther. He led throughout the 1 1/16-mile Sussex Handicap at Delaware in his last out July 30 and was just two lengths back in fourth in the one-mile, Grade 3 Poker Handicap at Belmont on July 3.

Frank's Selection rallied for second in the Nearctic prep and before that was third in the Grade 2 Play the King on Aug. 27.