07/15/2004 12:00AM

They're all chasing Inish Glora


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Classic Stamp has lost both of her meetings with champion Inish Glora this year, but the tables could be turned when they clash again Saturday in the Grade 3, $162,450 Dance Smartly Handicap at Woodbine.

Classic Stamp was a fast-closing second to Inish Glora when she returned from a winter break May 16 in the allowance prep for the Nassau Stakes.

Three weeks later, in the Grade 3 Nassau, Inish Glora set very slow fractions, while Classic Stamp bided her time in fourth. Inish Glora fended off favored Ocean Drive in the stretch to prevail by three-quarters of a length, with Classic Stamp another 2 1/2 lengths back in third.

Trainer Cliff Hopmans subsequently pointed Classic Stamp to the Dance Smartly's allowance prep, which failed to fill. He ended up running her against males in an $80,000 optional claimer June 26, a race she won impressively while receiving a career-high 94 Beyer Figure.

Hopmans believes Classic Stamp has matured quite a bit this year.

"She's stronger and more professional," Hopmans said. "Last year, she was a little more nervous about things. She would get a little sweaty in the paddock now and then, but now she struts over there like she's the queen. Nothing seems to bother her."

Hopmans was elated with Classic Stamp's five-furlong breeze in 1:00 over the turf training course July 11.

"She galloped out three-quarters in 1:12 and change," Hopmans said. "She's coming into this one great."

Inish Glora won the 2003 Sovereign Award as champion turf female in Canada, and is the leader of that division again this year. She has won eight of 29 starts, for earnings of $789,078.

Inish Glora usually does her optimum running as a stalker, but trainer Mac Benson said he wasn't surprised to see Inish Glora up front in the Nassau.

"With that kind of pace, I expected her [to be on the lead]," Benson said.

In the Nassau, jockey Todd Kabel, Benson said, "used his head, which is the nice thing about having somebody as smart as Todd on your horse. You don't have to tell them anything; they can ride the race as it comes up."

Benson said he nominated Inish Glora to a recent stakes at Belmont, "but I didn't see any sense in going there with this race right here."

Among the other entrants are One for Rose and Raylene, both of whom are also nominated to Sunday's Belle Mahone, an overnight stakes on the main track.