07/29/2009 11:00PM

Saskawea in fine form for stakes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Saskawea appears to be coming up to Saturday's $150,000 Royal North Stakes in peak form, and should be tough to beat in the six-furlong turf dash at Woodbine.

Saskawea, a homebred owned by Beclawat Stable and trained by Steve Attard, has started three times this year. She was a fading eighth in her season opener, the Grade 3 Hendrie Stakes on the Polytrack, which set her up nicely for her victory in the restricted Zadracarta Stakes June 14.

Last time, in the prep for the Royal North, the Repercussion Stakes, Saskawea tracked the leaders before taking control in the stretch, but was overhauled in the final strides by a charging Lady Attack, who broke the 6 1/2-furlong course record. Saskawea earned her second straight Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

"The first time she ran, she was probably one workout short," Attard recalled. "We knew she was fit enough for the [Zadracarta], and she loves the grass. She ran huge in the last one. When she sees another horse, she digs in, and I really don't think she saw [Lady Attack] coming on the outside. It took a track record to beat us."

Attard was elated with the way Saskawea has trained heading into the Royal North, which will likely be contested over a course with some give in it.

"She's in great shape," Attard said. "She's ready to go. I just don't know about the soft turf. I don't know how she'll handle it, but she tries all the time."

The Grade 3 Royal North has a five-horse field. Canadian Ballet and Dancing Allstar could link up on the front end.

Canadian Ballet is based at Saratoga with Linda Rice, who has carved out a reputation as a successful trainer of turf sprinters. In fact, she won the 2002 Royal North with Quick Blue.

Canadian Ballet led throughout the five-furlong P. G. Johnson Stakes at the Meadowlands in October, and is coming off a narrow score in the restricted Lottsa Talc Stakes over seven furlongs at Belmont.

Dancing Allstar, Canada's champion 2-year-old filly in 2007, took her season debut on the Polytrack in the Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes. She subsequently ran fourth in the Hendrie, and was a prominent second in the five-furlong Ernie Samuel Memorial Stakes on the grass at Fort Erie July 12.

Rounding out the field are the 3-year-old Mommie Whiz and Glitter Rox, who hasn't started since Nov. 23.