06/28/2005 11:00PM

Old Plate foes meet again in Dominion


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Niigon and A Bit O'Gold, the first two finishers in the 2004 Queen's Plate, will renew their rivalry at the Plate distance of 1 1/4 miles Friday at Woodbine in the Grade 3, $215,800 Dominion Day Handicap.

The supporting feature on the 10-race Canada Day card is the $158,550 Achievement Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds.

A Bit O'Gold has defeated Niigon twice, in last year's Plate Trial and in the Prince of Wakes Stakes, but Niigon got the upper hand on A Bit O'Gold when the big money was on the line, in the $1 million Plate. They went their separate ways after the July 18 Prince of Wales. Niigon struggled in several strong graded stakes in the U.S., while A Bit O'Gold remained at Woodbine for the easier pickings.

After posting two creditable grass efforts over the winter at Gulfstream, Niigon was beaten nearly 50 lengths in the Grade 3 Ben Ali on the dirt at Keeneland. Trainer Eric Coatrieux subsequently found a confidence-building spot for him here May 29, in a $62,500 optional claimer, which he won comfortably with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Coatrieux said he deliberately bypassed the Grade 3 Eclipse Handicap here May 23 with Niigon.

"I wanted to get a win under his belt, to get him some confidence," Coatrieux said. "He has done well since."

According to Coatrieux, Niigon worked three-quarters in 1:14 on June 24 at owner Chiefswood Stable's track, north of Toronto.

"It was a good move," Coatrieux said. "It was a deep track. We had just put some dirt on it."

A Bit O'Gold finished third in his first start of the season, the Vigil Handicap, and was fourth most recently in the Eclipse. Trainer Catherine Day Phillips said A Bit O'Gold came out of the Eclipse with some mucus.

"We've got that cleared up, and he has been working tremendously," Day Phillips said.

Day Phillips was especially pleased with A Bit O'Gold's five-furlong drill in a bullet 58.60 seconds on June 18. He followed up with a five-furlong move in 59.60 last Saturday.

The field also includes Just in Case Jimmy, who was fourth in the 2004 Plate, and Sky Diamond, who won the allowance prep for this event by a neck over Just in Case Jimmy.