10/14/2007 11:00PM

The queen takes to the road

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Call her the Great White North, as reliable as a Canadian sunset and solid as the Canadian dollar, which as of Monday morning could buy $1.02 worth of its cowering American equivalent.

Monashee is a 5-year-old gray mare gone almost white. She is named for a Canadian mountain range, and as of last Saturday, when she took the $125,000 Ballerina Stakes at Hastings in Vancouver with one leg tied behind her back, Monashee has won 11 straight stakes races in western Canada, dating back to June of 2006. One more and she gets her own province.

Now, the thought of winning any number of races in western Canada rarely brings New Yorkers or Kentuckians to their knees. Even in Canada, racing out West is considered a sincere but somewhat inferior endeavor when compared to the way the game is played in Toronto. Californians know the feeling. It took Swaps to go east in 1955 and beat Nashua in the Kentucky Derby before Western runners were taken seriously.

But excellence comes in all forms, and the record run-up by Monashee bears scrutiny from many entertaining angles. Chugging along with her steady, blue-collar stride, her white tail held straight and earmuffs wagging in the wind, Monashee sails round and round the bullrings at Hastings and Northlands Park without a hint of slowing down.

"She's been a real star up here," said former jockey Tom Wolski, who writes for The Province newspaper of British Columbia and hosts a racing radio show. "No question she's the best mare we've seen for as long as anyone can remember."

The Monashee team is made up of trainer Tracy McCarthy, her husband and chief assistant Chris Loseth, who won 3,665 races as a jockey, and Ole Nielsen, who manages the racing and breeding partnerships of Canmor Farms of British Columbia. The mare has been ridden in her last 12 starts by Dave Wilson.

Nielsen, 62, migrated with his family to Edmonton, in Alberta, as a young boy from their native Denmark. He practices real estate law for a select group of clients, but prefers to describe himself as a farm manager, and it shows. Canmor, a going concern for more than 30 years, has won several of British Columbia's top races, and Monashee, a $14,000 yearling with earnings now topping $640,000, is by far the the best they've ever had.

Still, Nielsen has been in the business long enough to keep things in perspective.

"What she's done is incredible," Nielsen said. "But I know she's been running in our neck of the woods, so I also know we haven't been to the real races yet."

To that end, Monashee will be on a plane later this month, bound for Woodbine and a date in the $175,000 Maple Leaf Stakes on Nov. 10, when she will be tackling fresh competiton, 1 1/4 miles, and a Polytrack racing surface all at once.

"I don't know about the surface," Nielsen said. "But I know the mile and a quarter shouldn't bother her at all."

A daughter of the South African sire Wolf Power, Monashee boasts a female line that traces cleanly to the durable Bolingbroke, a star of the early 1940s who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles and a pair of Saratoga Cups, each at 1 3/4 miles.

If Monashee wins at Woodbine, she should be a slam dunk to take Canada's Sovereign Award for older fillies and mares. But even if the streak should end, Nielsen will have no regrets.

"I thought if she was going to get beat it would have been in number 10," Nielsen said, referring to the Delta Colleen Handicap on Sept. 22 at Hastings. "She was carrying 130 pounds, and it had rained a lot, so I was a bit concerned about the track. When she crossed the line that day I'll admit the feeling was more relief than joy."

More to the point, Monashee's streak could have very easily ended at four in August of 2006 after her victory in the City of Edmonton Distaff Handicap. She emerged from her easy win a very sick horse.

"I'm shocked she's running this year," Nielsen said. "She was in the hospital for a month with pleural pneumonia, with three tubes running out of her chest and side. They drained 6 1/2 liters of fluid off her lungs. I was just hoping we could save her as a broodmare."

Instead, they have marked up seven more victories.

Unless your name is Personal Ensign, all winning streaks come to an end. Cigar and Citation were both stopped at 16. The great Hong Kong sprinter Silent Witness won 17 straight before losing at a mile. And the Louisiana filly Hallowed Dreams managed to win 16 straight before dropping her first race, although her streak was denigrated because of the competition she faced. Monashee hears the same criticism.

"It doesn't matter where she's been winning," trainer Bill Mott said when asked about Hallowed Dreams as she approached Cigar's number. "If she's been over there 15 times and got the job done 15 times, she's pretty special. You run into different circumstances that allow you to get beat all the time, and you've got to overcome them."

So look out, Toronto. Monashee is going to the races.