06/22/2005 11:00PM

Pierce running 2 of 4 in Hill 'n' Dale


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Malcolm Pierce seeks his second straight victory in the $106,400 Hill 'n' Dale Stakes Saturday at Woodbine, sending out Lemon Maid and Charming Ruckus in the four-horse race for 3-year-old fillies.

The owner of each of the first three finishers in the 1 1/16-mile race receives a 2005 season to one of three Hill 'n' Dale stallions in Kentucky - Theatrical, El Corredor, and Stormy Atlantic.

Pierce won the inaugural Hill 'n' Dale last year with My Lordship, who, like Lemon Maid, is owned by Live Oak Plantation.

Lemon Maid won her debut in February at the Fair Grounds with ease, running six furlongs fast enough to earn an excellent 91 Beyer Speed Figure. She reappeared here April 24, in the six-furlong Star Shoot Stakes, scoring by 3 1/4 lengths in the slop with a 92 Beyer.

Last time out, in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes May 22, Lemon Maid was upset by the Star Shoot runner-up, Gold Strike, who came back to romp in the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks and is among the favorites for Sunday's Queen's Plate.

Pierce was elated with the way Lemon Maid has trained since the 1 1/16-mile Selene, her first attempt around two turns.

"She worked really well last Saturday," Pierce said of Lemon Maid's five-furlong work in 59.20 seconds. "She galloped out good. This race should tell us whether or not she really is a two-turn horse. She got beat by a really nice filly in just the third race of her life when she tried two turns for the first time."

Todd Kabel, who rode My Lordship in the 2004 Hill 'n' Dale, retains the mount on Lemon Maid.

Charming Ruckus, a closer owned by Windways Farm and Quinn Stable, was a distant third in the Selene. Pierce said she caught a virus after the race, which forced him to bypass the June 12 Oaks with her.

"We were planning on running her in the Oaks, but she spiked a bit of a temperature a week before the race," Pierce said. "She left some decent fillies behind her in the Selene, and we were game to give it a try, hoping to stumble in third."

Pierce said Charming Ruckus has trained as good as can be expected heading into this engagement, including a five-furlong work in 1:03.60 on Saturday.

"She's doing well," he said. "She didn't work too fast last Saturday, but she's never worked any good. At least she shows up in the afternoon."

Charming Ruckus and Lemon Maid run as separate betting interests.