10/29/2003 1:00AM

Raylene seeks to sew up Sovereign


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When Raylene arrived at Woodbine last fall for the Mazarine, she brought along the reputation of being the fastest gun in the west among Alberta's 2-year-old fillies.

While Raylene failed to fire in the Grade 2 Mazarine she was far from disgraced while finishing fifth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Brusque, the eventual Sovereign Award winner for the division.

"I expected a little more from her," said Rod Haynes, who trains Raylene for Calmar Stables and Ranch. "She ran okay; she just didn't seem to handle the racetrack. Hopefully, this year, we'll be ready."

This year - as in this Saturday - Raylene will make her second appearance here in the Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares.

While the $196,350 pot certainly is a compelling incentive there will be even more at stake for Raylene in the Maple Leaf.

A victory would pretty much ensure Raylene's selection as the Sovereign Award winner for her division and even an in-the-money finish could be enough to put her over the top.

Lady Shari, last year's Sovereign Award-winning 3-year-old filly, nailed down her honors with an impressive victory in the Maple Leaf.

Raylene's principal opponents for this year's award would appear to be Too Late Now, who won the Grade 1 Selene and the restricted Labatt Woodbine Oaks here this spring but wound up her campaign on a down note, and Dancewithavixen, with whom Raylene recently split two decisions at Hastings.

Raylene, a Kentucky-bred, has won 6 of 9 starts this year, all in stakes, and finished second twice while banking $333,797.

After taking the six-furlong Mount Royal, one-mile Lilac, and 1 1/16-mile Penny Ridge in her three starts at Stampede Park in Calgary this spring, Raylene moved over to Northlands Park in Edmonton and lost for the first time this season when second to A Shaky Start in the 6 1/2-furlong Chariot Chaser.

After turning the tables in emphatic fashion over A Shaky Start in the one-mile Northlands Oaks, Raylene suffered another shocking defeat when she finished second to A Shaky Start in the 1 1/16-mile Sonoma.

But Raylene rebounded in style to win the Grade 3 Canadian Derby, defeating males in the 1 3/8-mile race won by Lady Shari last summer.

Raylene then journeyed to Vancouver, where she left Dancewithavixen a neck back in second while winning the Grade 3 British Columbia Oaks at 1 1/8 miles.

In her last start, which came in the Grade 3 Ballerina at 1 1/8 miles in the slop at Hastings, Raylene rallied to finish fourth, beaten one length by the victorious Dancewithavixen as both faced older fillies and mares for the first time.

"She really hasn't run a bad race," said Haynes. "Her last race, in Vancouver, she really didn't run till the last quarter of a mile."

Regardless of the Maple Leaf outcome, Raylene will be heading home for a well-deserved winter holiday.

"She's run well all year long, and she's run hard," said Haynes.

Raylene, who will be ridden by Jim McAleney, will face her stiffest test to date in the Maple Leaf, in which the up-and-coming 4-year-old One for Rose looms the filly to beat in the prospective field of 10.

Master William will miss Coronation

Saturday's $250,000 Coronation Futurity, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds, also attracted 10 entrants.

Missing from the Coronation lineup is Master William, trained by Michael Dickinson in Maryland.

Master William was scheduled to return after winning the $250,000 Cup and Saucer at 1 1/16 miles on turf here Oct. 11 but will not make the trip due to illness.

Another stakes race scheduled for Saturday, the $100,000 Mt. Sassafras, was scrapped after attracting just four entrants.

The Mt. Sassafras, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and upward, attracted just nine nominees. As an overnight stakes, the Mt. Sassafras required a minimum of five entrants to be carded.

Mulligan the Great, one of the circuit's leading sprinters, was among those nominees but already has gone to the farm and will not see action again this season.

"We just stopped on him," said Cliff Hopmans, who trains Mulligan the Great for Charles Simmons. "He showed us last time that it's time for a break."

Mulligan the Great started eight times this year, winning four races, including the Overskate and Bold Venture, and finishing second or third in his other outings while collecting $322,396.

In his last start, which came in the six-furlong Highlander here Oct. 19, Mulligan the Great prompted a blazing pace before weakening slightly to finish third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths.

"In hindsight, I probably should have passed on the six-furlong race last time and run him Saturday at seven furlongs; that's his best distance," said Hopmans. "But, he'll be back stronger than ever next year."

Two options for Classic Stamp

Hopmans also trains Classic Stamp, who is entered in the Maple Leaf but could opt for Sunday's $100,000 River Memories, an overnight stakes for fillies and mares at a mile on the turf.

Owned and bred by Bill Sorokolit, Classic Stamp has won 3 of 7 starts in her first campaign, never finishing worse than third while banking $228,054.

Classic Stamp became a stakes winner in her last start, defeating fellow Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf in the Carotene.

"I'd prefer to see her stay on the turf," said Hopmans, while acknowledging that the condition of the grass course could become a factor due to the recent rains here.