09/11/2003 11:00PM

Once again, Diadella's a threat


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sunday's $279,250 Canadian Handicap, a Grade 2 race for fillies and mares over 1 1/8 miles on turf, has attracted an interesting lineup, including American invaders Volga and Lady of the Future, and the English filly Hold to Ransom.

But they will have to get past Diadella, a Kentucky-bred 6-year-old who has done the majority of her racing here at Woodbine for Stronach Stable and trainer Malcolm Pierce.

Diadella won the 2001 edition of the Canadian and was second, beaten a nose last year by the Christophe Clement-trained shipper Calista.

That race, Diadella's second of the season, was to serve as her stepping-stone to the E.P. Taylor Stakes, a Grade 1 stakes here for fillies and mares over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

But shortly thereafter, Diadella was found to have suffered a hairline fracture of her tibia, which necessitated a long rest.

Diadella resurfaced here almost 10 months later in the Grade 3 Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race in which she finished fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths.

"That was a pretty tough test for her first time," said Pierce, who waited seven weeks before sending out Diadella to run back over 1 1/16 miles on turf in the Canadian prep.

As the odds-on choice, Diadella finished second there to Ginger Gold, who again is among her opponents Sunday.

"The fractions were too soft for her," said Pierce. "She tried, and closed up quite a few lengths, but she couldn't get her. Ginger Gold hung on; she ran game."

Diadella has worked well in the interim and should be ready to put forth her best effort Sunday under 116 pounds. Jose Santos, here to ride Perfect Soul in the Atto Mile, has picked up the mount.

"Right now, we're back to where we were with her at this time last year," said Pierce. "She's in as good shape as she can be."

Volga, who will be the 118-pound highweight with Corey Nakatani in the irons, has started just once this year, winning Monmouth's Grade 3 Matchmaker over 1 1/8 miles of turf Aug. 17.

Trained by Clement, Volga has run well in the last two runnings of the E.P. Taylor, finishing third last year and second, beaten just a neck, in 2001.

Lady of the Future, trained by Thomas Greene and to be ridden by Mike Luzzi, has raced at four different tracks in as many starts this year, with her best efforts third-place finishes in two Grade 3 turf stakes.

But the wild card is Hold to Ransom, a 3-year-old who is coming off a seventh-place finish, beaten just 3 3/4 lengths, as the favorite in the Grade 2 Falmouth Stakes over a mile on good going at Newmarket on July 9.

Immediately before that, Hold to Ransom was a five-length winner of a listed stakes over a mile on firm turf at Ascot.

"She'll probably want a nice pace, like when she won at Ascot," said exercise rider Julie Lingham.

Hold to Ransom is trained by Ed Dunlop, who sent over the 3-year-old filly Fraulein to upset the E.P. Taylor last fall. Like Fraulein last year, Hold to Ransom will be racing on Lasix for the first time.