06/12/2003 11:00PM

Right Stop, 'Freedom' lead two stakes fields


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Sunday's Bridgeburg and Adena Springs Matchmaker, both $60,000 stakes, launch Fort Erie's 21-race stakes program.

In the 1 1/16-mile Bridgeburg, Fort Erie trainer Tom Agosti sends out Right Stop, a winner of five races last year, against two Woodbine invaders, Malmaison and Ocean Front.

Right Stop was a closing second in his last start, a starter allowance at Woodbine May 9. In the six-furlong Hooters Sprint at Tampa Bay Downs April 6, Right Stop finished fifth, beaten three lengths. He also won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Tampa Feb. 22.

"Ever since we started racing him like this, every four or five weeks, he's been getting a lot better," said Agosti. "He likes the time off, but he still trains good and everything."

The Adena Springs Matchmaker, scheduled for five furlongs over the turf, drew 15 entries. The field is restricted to 10, so the lowest five earners in 2002-03 were placed on the also-eligible list.

Frank Stronach, whose Adena Springs outfit sponsors the race, has probably also supplied the top contender. She is Freedom Come, a 4-year-old filly who boasts four wins and has won her last three starts.

Roger Attfield trained Freedom Come last year, but she is now in the hands of Danny Vella, who for the past five years was the farm trainer for the powerful Stronach operation in Florida.

Freedom Come makes her third start this year. She has never competed on the grass, but Vella is not deterred.

"She's by Lit de Justice," said Vella, "and 75 percent of them move up on turf. And, I think the five furlongs will suit her even better.

"She's a very, very fast filly who improved a lot over the winter. She's matured and is big and strong. She's all try and has got that bad habit, to other people, of always winning."

Vella considers Leading Role, trained by Gail Casselman, to be his main opposition.

In her 2003 opener, Leading Role was fourth in the Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine April 12. Despite a troubled trip, she finished just 2 1/4 lengths behind winner Brass in Pocket, who captured the $128,875 Ballade Stakes at Woodbine Wednesday.

American in Paris, last year's winner of the Matchmaker, will try to repeat.

In a departure, Fort Erie stakes will now be targeted for Saturdays and Sundays. In the past they were mainly scheduled on Woodbine's dark days, Mondays and Tuesdays.