08/06/2006 12:00AM

Royal Challenger captures Breeders' Stakes

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Royal Challenger wins Sunday's $502,000 Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine by a neck.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Royal Challenger held off favored French Beret in the final strides to capture Sunday's $502,000 , the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown at Woodbine.

Royal Challenger was moved up from fourth to third in the second leg of the series, the Prince of Wales Stakes, after the disqualification of his stablemate, Malakoff, who was demoted from first to fifth for interference. That result is under appeal to the Ontario Racing Commission.

There was no controversy in the Breeders', however, as Royal Challenger benefited from a ground-saving journey in the mile and a half turf event. After racing well off an honest pace, he loomed into contention on the far turn, then split horses at the three-sixteenths pole before opening up a daylight lead with a furlong left.

French Beret made a late wide bid, but Royal Challenger prevailed by a neck, covering the distance in 2:28.66 seconds. Shillelagh Slew, the 5-2 second choice, finished another length and a half back in third in the 10-horse field of Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Jockey Patrick Husbands said everything went perfectly for Royal Challenger, who was making his turf debut in the race.

"I saved every inch of ground," Husbands said. "When I asked him, he just exploded. About 10 strides from the wire, he was looking at the cameras and everything, but when (French Beret) came to him just before the wire, he took off again."

Brian Lynch, who trains Royal Challenger for Stronach Stable, said he wasn't surprised by the way the son of Touch Gold handled the surface. "When we worked him on the grass, he seemed to handle it good," Lynch said.

Royal Challenger ($9.80) headed an exactor worth $35.80, and a triactor which returned $107. First money of $300,000 boosted his bankroll to $410,325.

David Clark rode Dave the Knave in a come-from-behind victory in Sunday's supporting feature, the $125,400 Shepperton Stakes, for Ontario-sired runners.

Favored Mister Coop dueled on the lead with two others in the seven and a half-furlong contest, while Millfleet assumed a stalking position.

Millfleet joined Mister Coop on the lead on the far turn, as Dave the Knave commenced a three-wide rally from last. Dave the Knave hit the front at the eighth pole, before drawing away for a three and three-quarter length score over Millfleet.

Dave the Knave ($9.60) earned $75,000 for the partnership of Frank DiGiulio Jr. and trainer Bob Tiller. He completed the distance in 1:30.55 seconds.

Main Executive, the 3-2 favorite when the six-horse field was in the gate, was deemed to have had an unfair start by the stewards, and all wagers on him were refunded.