08/25/2006 12:00AM

Pie Corner standout on Beyers

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Pie Corner, 2 for 4 on turf this season, will likely rule as the favorite in Sunday's $30,000 Niagara Falls Cup at Fort Erie.

The seven-furlong Niagara Falls, to be run as a $10,000 starter allowance, attracted 14 entrants. On turf, the field is limited to 10 starters.

Layne Giliforte will saddle Pie Corner in the Niagara Falls for Melnyk Racing Stable, but he would have preferred to run Pie Corner in a turf race for $10,000 claimers a week later. But he didn't want to take a chance rain might interfere with his plans.

"[Pie Corner] is strictly turf," said Giliforte, the leading trainer at the Fort for six consecutive years from 1998 to 2003. "If you pass on a turf opportunity your turf starts can be pretty limited. So I put him in Sunday's race."

To preserve the turf course, no more than one grass race a day is carded throughout the meet.

Pie Corner is a standout. He earned turf Beyer Speed Figures of 80 and 82 in his two latest scores. No other runner in the race has been able to reach a Beyer of 80 this year.

Spider Canyon, trained by George Nagy, and Fire the Firm, trained by Mark Fournier, are improving runners who may provide the stiffest opposition to Pie Corner.

In a starter allowance here Aug. 8, Spider Canyon finished second, two lengths ahead of Pie Corner, who finished fourth. It was the only time Pie Corner was off the board this year. Spider Canyon was awarded a career-best Beyer of 77 for the effort.

Fire the Firm was a $7,500 claim by Fournier on May 23 for the Fort's leading owner, Bruno Schickedanz. Responding to a return to grass racing, Fire the Firm finished second and then first in his two races for his new owner. Both were at five furlongs, with the last a score in the Parnitha Cup here Aug. 6.

"I think he'll be even better stretching out," said Fournier. "He has won on the grass at seven furlongs before. He has been training good and he'll run decent on Sunday."

* Pat Day will be at Fort Erie on Sunday and will be available for an autograph session from 2 p.m to 4 p.m. in the clubhouse.