05/26/2005 11:00PM

Supporting feature fails to fill


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Afleet Stakes, which would have been the supporting feature here Sunday, will not see the light of day.

The Afleet, a six-furlong race that had offered a purse of $75,000, was part of the overnight stakes program, and such races require a minimum of six betting interests to make the card.

A total of 16 Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds were nominated to the Afleet, but only two passed the entry box here Friday morning.

One Afleet nominee, Dave the Knave, wound up in the entries for Sunday.

Dave the Knave, a Queen's Plate candidate, finds himself in the unusual situation of facing a former Queen's Plate winner, Niigon, in a second-level allowance/$62,500 optional claiming race for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/16 miles.

Trained and co-owned by Bob Tiller, Dave the Knave won a six-furlong allowance race for Ontario-sired nonwinners-of-three in his seasonal bow here May 6.

In his only previous try around two turns, Dave the Knave finished second to Enough Is Enough in the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie, an Ontario-sired stakes here last Dec. 12.

Niigon, winless in six starts since taking the 1 1/4-mile Plate here last June, is making his meet bow.

Shipper has had local success

Sunday's featured Connaught Cup has attracted one shipper, as Tempered Steel, a 5-year-old gelding who is based at Churchill Downs with Dallas Stewart, will compete in the Grade 3, 1 1/16 mile turf race.

Tempered Steel, who checked in early Friday morning, differs from the average shipper in that he is a proven commodity over the E.P. Taylor turf course.

Owned by John Gunther, Tempered Steel was sent here to trainer Catherine Day Phillips last spring and won 2 of 3 starts over the turf course. His successes came in a maiden special over 1 1/16 miles and in a first-level allowance over 1 1/8 miles, but he then finished eighth in the Chief Bearhart over 1 1/4 miles on yielding going.

In seven subsequent starts, all for Stewart, Tempered Steel recorded a second-level allowance victory and four second-place finishes.

Simon Husbands, who rode Tempered Steel to his second win here last year, picks up the mount.

Tempered Steel would be just the third horse to run for Stewart at Woodbine.

In the Ghetto finished last of six in the 2003 Star Shoot and Saratoga Cat finished sixth of nine in the 2002 Maple Leaf. Both horses were owned by Gunther.

Bell being patient with Intrinsic Worth

Intrinsic Worth, owned by Pin Oak Stable and trained by David Bell, was among the nominees to the Connaught Cup but will not be participating.

"I kind of like the horse, he just hasn't quite clicked yet," said Bell, who took over as Intrinsic Worth's trainer this sprin. "I'll try to find another spot for him on turf."

Intrinsic Worth, a 4-year-old colt, finished fifth in his only turf race, the 7 1/2-furlong Black Gold at Fair Grounds in February of 2004. This year, Intrinsic Worth finished sixth of nine in the six-furlong Jacques Cartier and third of six in the off-the-turf mile and 70-yard Connaught Cup prep.

Bell was encouraged to see Intrinsic Worth handle the grass well on Friday morning when he worked five furlongs over a firm training track in 1:00 while matching strides with stakes-winning stablemate I Thee Wed.

"They both worked well," said Bell, noting that jockey Jim McAleney was aboard I Thee Wed while exercise rider Kim Ito piloted Intrinsic Worth.

I Thee Wed, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Pin Oak, became a stakes winner here last Oct. 24, upsetting the Grade 2 Nearctic over six furlongs on turf. In his only subsequent start, I Thee Wed made a strong move on the inside before coming up a touch short in the final furlong and ending fourth in the seven-furlong Vigil here April 30.

I Thee Wed's next stakes target is the Grade 3, $200,000 Scotts Highlander Handicap, a six-furlong turf race here June 26.

Not giving up on Victorious Ami

Bell is not about to abandon the Labatt Woodbine Oaks trail with Victorious Ami, despite her two disappointing outings this season.

Victorious Ami, a homebred owned by Ivan Dalos, had stamped herself as a logical candidate for the 1 1/8-mile Oaks by winning her maiden in the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth in her fourth and final start at 2.

But despite working very well this spring, Victorious Ami has been a beaten favorite in a pair of first-level allowances, finishing fifth at six furlongs and a well-beaten third at 1 1/16 miles.

"I think my filly wants to go long, and she's better than what she's shown me this year," said Bell.

"She needs to get a little more focused, and she may get into the hunt. I might breeze her with blinkers and see how that goes."

The $500,000 Oaks, for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, will be run here on June 12.

* Veteran jockey agent Al Duffy is back in action this spring and is booking mounts for Shane Ellis, who rode in his native Jamaica last year. Ellis, 31, rode here in 2001 through 2003. His best year here was 2002, when he won 31 races, including a pair of stakes with Heyahohowdy, and his mounts earned $1.5 million.