07/25/2002 11:00PM

Silver Nithi tries new surface

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Silver Nithi had her first feel of a turf course Friday, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.60 in preparation for the $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes at Woodbine on Aug. 5.

"She handled it well," said trainer David Bell, after watching Silver Nithi and exercise rider Sarah Cohen work in company with stakes-placed stablemate Funny Soldier, who breezed in 1:00.20.

The Wonder Where, a 1 1/4-mile turf race, is the final leg of the Triple Tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Ginger Gold and Silver Nithi traded decisions in the first two rounds, with Ginger Gold taking the June 8 Labatt Woodbine Oaks over 1 1/8 miles and Silver Nithi avenging her second-place finish there by leaving Ginger Gold the runner-up in the July 1 Labatt Bison City over 1 1/16 miles at Fort Erie.

Silver Nithi was back in action here July 13, as the odds-on choice in the 1 1/16-mile Wilderness Song Stakes, but finished a non-threatening last in the field of seven under regular rider Mickey Walls.

"The only thing I can say is maybe it was running her back that quick, after a hard race," said Bell. "It looked like a nice spot, and there was time to go from there to the Wonder Where and and we didn't have to keep cranking on her.

"It was one of those gambles we took. We lost, but I don't think we lost anything serious by it."

Bala, who also is Wonder Where-bound, worked four furlongs in 50 seconds under exercise rider Paul O'Sullivan on the training track turf course Friday.

Bala, trained by Roger Attfield, finished third in a division of the Natalma Stakes over a mile of turf here last September and ran sixth last time out in the Wilderness Song.

Attfield has two other candidates for the Wonder Where in Alpha Heat and Winning Chance, both of whom are owned by Stronach Stable. Alpha Heat ran third in both the Oaks and Bison City.

Portcullis sharpens for Breeders'

Portcullis, who is expected to be seeking his third straight turf stakes win here in the Aug. 10 Breeders', worked five furlongs in 1:00 on the turf training course Friday under regular rider Slade Callaghan.

Portcullis took the one-mile Charlie Barley on June 23 and the 1 1/8-mile Toronto Cup on July 13.

With regular rider Slade Callaghan in the irons for Friday's drill, Portcullis stalked the pace of his older Sam-Son Farm stablemate Fly Smartly, who also was clocked in 1:00.

Mountain Beacon, who also is a Breeders' candidate for Sam-Son Farm, worked five furlongs on the turf training course in 1:03.20 under jockey Robert Landry while in company with older stablemate Lucky Scarab.

Joining Portcullis on the short list of top contenders for the 1 1/2-mile, $500,000 Breeders' is Le Cinquieme Essai, who captured last Sunday's Prince of Wales at Fort Erie.

Questing Knight had lots of trouble

The turf is a question mark for many other Breeders' hopefuls, but one who could be very dangerous if he takes to the surface is Questing Knight, who finished a troubled fourth when making his stakes debut in the Prince of Wales.

"A lot more things went wrong than went right," said Mike DePaulo, who trains Questing Knight. "He didn't break good, and was shuffled back.

"Our idea was to be sitting just off the pace but he was back there, with dirt hitting him in the face, and was off the bridle. He was climbing most of the race.

"Turning for home, he was trying to find a hole and there was a big scrum in front of him."

Questing Knight was able to angle out and finished well to be fourth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths for all the money.

DePaulo plans to work Questing Knight on the turf before deciding whether to proceed to the Breeders'.

Questing Knight also is nominated for the $125,000 Vice Regent, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired

3-year-olds here Aug. 7.

Anglian Prince targets Breeders'

Anglian Prince, another Breeders' prospect with no prior turf experience, should complete his trek through the Canadian Triple Crown.

Owned by Len Prussky and trained by Mort Hardy, Anglian Prince finished second here in the June 23 Queen's Plate and third in the Prince of Wales.

"I think he ran his race there," said Hardy, "and he came out of the race good.

"It's onward and forward. We'll have to work him on the grass, and aim for the Breeders'.

Forever Grand may go to Vice Regent

Forever Grand will be heading in a different direction after finishing a solid third in the Plate but a fading fifth in the Prince of Wales.

"There was too much speed up front," said Bob Tiller, trainer and co-owner of Forever Grand. "I'm not going to panic; he came out of it okay. I always thought he wasn't a genuine distance horse."

Forever Grand, being Ontario-sired, also is a candidate for the Vice Regent.

Classic Mike, who was a bang-up second here in the June 1 Plate Trial but then finished eighth in the Plate and last of 12 in the Prince of Wales, also would appear to be through with the Canadian Triple Crown series.

"I can't pinpoint the reason he stopped twice in a row," said Reade Baker, who trains Classic Mike for Dom Romeo. "We're just going to regroup, and find an easier race."

* Roland "Roly" Roberts, who has been involved in Canada's Thoroughbred industry in a number of senior capacities over the last 45 years, will be honored with a Special Sovereign Award this Dec. 7. Roberts, who had been the treasurer for the Jockey Club of Canada for more than 25 years, stepped down from that voluntary position this week.