06/28/2002 11:00PM

Tails of the Crypt vs. champs


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Tails of the Crypt, Woodbine's top 3-year-old, will meet several of the more accomplished older runners on the grounds in Monday's Grade 3, $219,800 Dominion Day Handicap.

The 1 1/4-mile event has also lured Churchill Downs invader Bonus Pack, along with Canadian champions A Fleets Dancer, Catch the Ring, and Win City.

Kentucky-bred Tails of the Crypt was on the Kentucky Derby trail after finishing second in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby in March, but was shipped back here after his subpar showing in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Tails of the Crypt couldn't overcome a slow pace when he ran second in the Marine Stakes, but he made amends with a scintillating 6 1/4-length victory in the Victoria Park Stakes.

Trainer John Ross had contemplated running Tails of the Crypt in the Belmont Stakes after the May 18 Marine, and was left wondering what might have been after Sarava won the Belmont at 70-1.

"It's something I might always have in the back of my mind," Ross said. "When I came to the barn the next morning, my brother, Ian, said, 'Boy, did you mess up yesterday,' and I said, 'What do you mean?' and he said, 'You should have been in the Belmont.' Hindsight is always 20/20, but I needed to get some confidence back into the horse, and I was glad to see him win the Victoria Park."

A Fleets Dancer won the 2001 Dominion Day and was voted champion older horse at year's end. A late-runner, he was second while coming off the shelf in the Eclipse Handicap and was recently third in the allowance prep for this fixture.

"He was a victim of a slow pace in his last race," trainer Roger Attfield said.

A Fleets Dancer needs only a third-place finish on Monday to go over the $1 million mark in earnings.

Bonus Pack, trained by Tom Proctor, earned the highest recent Beyer Speed Figure in the field, 106, when he rallied to win a $62,500 optional claimer at Churchill. He possesses tactical speed and should be prominent from the outset under Jesus Castanon.

Catch the Ring, the lone mare in the field, won the 1 1/4-mile Maple Leaf Stakes last fall. Trainer Mark Frostad had a hard time finding a race for her in the spring and sent her out to finish a closing third off a long layoff in the June 9 Ontario Matron Handicap.

"She put in a good run last time," Frostad said. "Hopefully, the pace will be faster in the Dominion Day."