07/09/2002 11:00PM

Silver Axe coming in fresh

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Stronach Stable and trainer Malcolm Pierce have won numerous turf races at Woodbine since they teamed up a few years ago, most recently with Montezuma's Gold last weekend.

That same combination will send out Silver Axe in Friday's feature, a 1 1/8-mile grass event for $80,000 optional claimers.

Silver Axe banked $113,386 in 10 starts last year at age 5, but found the winner's circle only once, in a $62,500 optional claimer taken off the grass. In one of his better performances, he finished third over yielding ground in the Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap in October.

Silver Axe launched his current campaign here on the main track on April 20, when he rallied inside from off a slow pace to finish a lapped-on third. Most recently, in a seven-furlong turf event for $80,000 optional claimers, he was void of early speed and never fired, finishing seventh in a race dominated by pace-pressers.

Silver Axe has been freshened since that May 29 outing, and will get to ply his trade at a more suitable distance on Friday. Leading rider Patrick Husbands inherits the mount.

Also entered in Friday's headliner were Valid N Bold, Get Down Wolfie, River Boat, Defenman, Culloden, and Riddell's Creek.

River Boat, a sturdy 9-year-old with earnings of $646,388, is winless since taking the Grade 2 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap in September 2000 for owner/trainer Frank Huarte.

River Boat ended way up the course when he came off the shelf on May 25 in the Connaught Cup Stakes. He subsequently ran fourth running about 1 1/4 miles at this level, and is coming off a respectable second-place finish against $62,500 opposition on the main track.

Culloden posted a 15-1 upset when he beat River Boat in that $62,500 event, which was taken off the grass. A well-bred son of Seattle Slew, Culloden competed at Fair Grounds over the winter with mixed success for trainer Mike Doyle. He trailed a 13-horse field in the Grade 3 Connaught Cup in his only other start at this stand.

Riddell's Creek, Canada's champion 2-year-old in 1998, is also in the midst of a long drought. Trained by Bev Buck, Riddell's Creek ran second over a soft course in his penultimate start, and was beaten 5 1/2 lengths by the talented Full of Wonder last time out in allowance company.

* Pierce will saddle another Stronach runner, Mercy Mission, in the seventh race on the card, a seven-furlong turf allowance for 3-year-old fillies.

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