05/22/2001 11:00PM

Owens's pair for Plate land on same menu


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Steve Owens wanted to keep his two Queen's Plate hopefuls on separate paths leading up to the big race June 24 at Woodbine.

But now Highland Legacy and Legal Heir, both owned by the Empress Stable of the trainer's wife, Beverly, and mother-in-law, Mildred Lewis, are slated to run as an entry in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here next Saturday, June 2.

"I'd been considering the Steady Growth for Highland Legacy," said Owens, with reference to Wednesday's 1 1/16-mile stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

"But I want to get the mile and an eighth into him before the Plate. I think the mile and an eighth, the way he was last year and the way he's trained this year, is better suited to him."

Highland Legacy, a Highland Ruckus gelding, closed out his Sovereign Award-winning 2-year-old campaign with a come-from-behind score in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity. But he has raced just once this season, finishing a distant third in the seven-furlong Queenston, and his training regimen has been compromised by a case of stomach ulcers.

"He galloped out fine after his last race," said Owens, "and he's worked six furlongs in the interim. We've got to find out where we're at with him."

Legal Heir disappointed in his first two outings this spring but then put it all together when stretching out for the first time, leading throughout an entry-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles. A Lord Carson gelding, Legal Heir breezed six furlongs in 1:18.80 here on Sunday but the slow clocking did not concern Owens.

"It was just an easy breeze, to open his lungs a little," he said. "He's all set for the Trial; he doesn't need anything else."

Highland Legacy is scheduled for his final major Trial tune-up here Sunday or Monday.

Ulcers derail Devil Valentine

Stomach ulcers have proven to be the undoing of Devil Valentine, who officially is off the Queen's Plate trail after two disappointing performances here this spring.

"We're going to send him to the farm for a month," said trainer David Bell, who had discovered the problem when the horse was examined last Monday morning, two days after being soundly defeated in the Marine. "I didn't sleep for a night thinking about it, but I think it's the right decision.

"I want to do the right thing by him, treat him like a good horse."

Bell, who won five races here last week, will be looking for his first and second stakes scores of the year when he sends out Solitary Dancer and Divine Luck in Saturday's divided Connaught Cup.

Solitary Dancer, winner of the Connaught Cup prep here last Friday, will face seven rivals in the first division while Divine Luck, an encouraging third in his local debut May 9, meets eight opponents in the second split.

Lining up for the first division of the Connaught, a Grade 3 race for 4-year-olds and up over 1 1/16 miles of turf, will be River Boat, Medievil Hero, Red Sea, Academic, Silver Axe, Solitary Dancer, Rhenium and Exciting Story.

The field for the second division will be Lil Personalitee, Incitatus, Divine Luck, Cracker's Folly, Kimberlite Pipe, Del Mar Show, Allende, Muntej and Lodge Hill.

The two Connaught Cup invaders, Medievil Hero and Del Mar Show, will be well supported in their respective divisions.

Medievil Hero, owned by Joseph Lacombe and trained by Mary Jo Lohmeier, is coming off a money-allowance score over 1 1/16 miles of Keeneland turf. A 5-year-old son of Sea Hero, Medievil Hero is a half-brother to champion Favorite Trick.

Del Mar Show was in perfect in three starts in Florida this year, the latest success coming in the Grade 2 Hialeah Turf Cup over 1 3/16 miles April 21.

Locally based jockey Gary Boulanger picks up the mount on Medievil Hero, while Robbie Davis will be in from New York to ride Del Mar Show.

Saturday's card also will feature the seasonal bow of Poetically, Canada's champion 2-year-old filly of 2000 for Kinghaven Farm and trainer Roger Attfield.

A triple stakes winner at 2, Poetically had been bothered this spring by a blood disorder and skin infection but appears to have put those problems behind her and has trained very well in recent weeks. She'll be the junior member of the five-horse field as she competes under the "nonwinners of four other than" condition in Saturday's seven-furlong allowance/optional claimer for fillies and mares.

Poetically is eligible for the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies here June 9.

* Sportsnet Ontario will televise live racing from Woodbine Friday in a 90-minute broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. The show, called Woodbine Post Time, will include the third through fifth races.