05/31/2006 12:00AM

'Shelter' runs for Plate ticket


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Queen's Plate nominees Seeking Shelter and Bridgecut are among a five-horse field in Friday's third race at Woodbine, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for 3-year-olds.

Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Seeking Shelter had an erratic but productive four-race campaign as a 2-year-old. After finishing sixth in his debut on dirt July 17, he switched to turf and won his maiden in August, then switched back to dirt and finished second in the Simcoe Stakes behind Edenwold, who won last year's Sovereign Award for Canadian champion 2-year-old. Back on turf in October, Seeking Shelter finished 11th, beaten 18 1/4 lengths, in the Cup and Saucer Stakes.

Seeking Shelter has finished second in each of his outings this spring, both in first-level allowance sprints on dirt. Friday's race marks his first start around two turns, and Pierce has been winning at a 21 percent rate with stretch-outs to a route.

"He's been training good," Pierce said. "He seems to have recovered from his last race. This race will tell us whether or not he belongs in the Queen's Plate. There's no pressure to get there [from the owner]. If he were to run well and win, we'd have to think that way. If this doesn't work out, he might be in the Charlie Barley on Queen's Plate Day, or an a-other-than."

The Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile event worth $1 million, is on June 25. The Charlie Barley is a one-mile turf stakes with a $100,000 purse.

Bridgecut, trained by David Bell, also showed promise at 2. After winning his maiden in his second start, a mile-and-70-yard race on the dirt in September, he finished ninth in the Cup and Saucer. He then finished fifth in the Coronation Futurity, but returned to run perhaps his best race in the Display Stakes, finishing third behind Seaside Retreat.

In his season opener, Bridgecut dueled up front along the inside before fading to fourth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance.

Friday's feature is a $71,300 third-level allowance at seven furlongs. The race, which also has an $80,000 optional claiming price, is led by the Reade Baker-trained entry of Forever Rush and Ever So Free.

Forever Rush, who won this third-level condition going long in September, is competing with an $80,000 claiming tag. He was only an early presence when he tried the grass May 14, in the allowance prep for the Connaught Cup Stakes.

Ever So Free has been sidelined since winning a $62,500 allowance Dec. 11. He closed to win his debut last summer in a six-furlong race and can certainly run well when fresh.