08/07/2002 11:00PM

Portcullis brings solid credentials to Breeders'


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Sam-Son Farm entry of Portcullis and Mountain Beacon should be favored Saturday at Woodbine in the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

A field of 10 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds will line up in the 1 1/2-mile event, one of the few races contested over one full lap of the European-style E.P. Taylor turf course.

Portcullis is definitely the more fancied half of the Mark Frostad-trained entry. A son of Grade 1 dirt winner Smart Strike, Portcullis has competed strictly on the grass, winning 5 of 9 starts while banking $265,859.

Portcullis won his first stakes here June 23, in the Charlie Barley Handicap. He rallied stoutly along the rail under Slade Callaghan to win his most recent start in the 1 1/8-mile Toronto Cup Handicap.

Hugh Chatman, Frostad's assistant, has every reason to believe that Portcullis will handle the Breeders' distance.

"He's a kind horse," Chatman said. "He'll sit and wait forever until you ask him to move, and then he'll go on with it. The pace was slow in the Toronto Cup, but he overcame it and finished up pretty strong. Slade rode a great race."

Mountain Beacon, an underachiever on the main track, posted a respectable third-place finish going 1 3/8 miles against older optional claimers in his recent grass debut.

"He's a one-paced horse," Chatman pointed out. "He doesn't have a big kick. Where he is [early] in a race, is where he's going to be sitting."

Portcullis, Mountain Beacon, and stablemate Quiet Colony all worked together over the E.P. Taylor turf last Saturday, "It was a routine maintenance breeze," Chatman said. "Mountain Beacon was in front, Portcullis was just behind him, and then came Quiet Colony.

They basically stayed in that same position, and went three-quarters in 1:14 and change. Everybody was happy with it."

Questing Knight, making his first start on turf for trainer Mike DePaulo, could be the spoiler. A son of Ascot Knight, Questing Knight won back-to-back 1 1/16-mile races in June, including a key Ontario-sired allowance.

Questing Knight wasn't ready for the Queen's Plate, but he made it to the gate for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie. He raced well back early in the 1 3/16-mile Wales, before mounting a belated rally to end up fourth.

DePaulo felt Questing Knight had an eventful journey in the Wales under Mickey Walls.

"He broke poorly," DePaulo recalled. "They had a lot of water on the track, and Mickey said the horse didn't like getting mud in his face, and he came off the bridle. He was pretty much last turning for home, and got into a little trouble. He showed some courage to get up for fourth, and galloped out well. He bled a little," DePaulo added. "He's going to be first-time Lasix here. He worked good on Lasix the other day."

DePaulo isn't apprehensive about running Questing Knight in a turf marathon.

"All the Ascot Knights I've had moved up on grass," DePaulo said. "He had a brother who could 'turf.' He should get the distance. When he trains, the lines just loop. He can gallop right along, and when you ask him to pick it up, he does."

El Soprano, second in the Toronto Cup, was the most accomplished local 2-year-old on turf in 2001, when he took the Grade 2 Summer Stakes and was a troubled second in the Cup and Saucer Stakes.

El Soprano is trained by Roger Attfield, who has won three of the four most recent runnings of the Breeders', including last year's renewal with Sweetest Thing.

Anglian Prince, second in the Plate and third in the Wales, is trying the grass for the first time, a surface over which his dam, Anglia, won a stakes. Mort Hardy trains.

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