11/22/2001 1:00AM

This time edge goes to 'Devil'


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Highland Legacy got the better of Devil Valentine last fall in the prestigious Coronation Futurity, and was crowned champion 2-year-old at year's end on the strength of that victory.

Circumstances have changed dramatically this year, however. Devil Valentine has evolved into one of the top Canadian-bred 3-year-olds at Woodbine, and will be odds-on in his rematch with Highland Legacy in Saturday's Sir Barton Stakes.

Just two others - Indian Dan and Ruff Tuff Stuff - were entered in the 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds, which is worth $125,125.

Devil Valentine looked like a serious prospect for the Queen's Plate early in the year, but was well beaten in stakes in both of his spring starts. Trainer David Bell gave him a break after the May 19 Marine Stakes, and Devil Valentine was turned over to trainer Fenton Platts shortly after he resurfaced from a summer layoff.

"They found out that he had stomach ulcers after those poor races in the spring," Platts recalled. "It was probably hindering his progress. He was working well, but wasn't showing anything in the afternoons. He was treated for it, and spent 30 days at Windfields Farm. He breezed once with David Bell before he came to me."

Devil Valentine has run five solid races in five starts for Platts. He finished a head back of Indian Dan on turf in the Vice Regent Stakes on Aug. 8., and was also narrowly beaten in an optional claimer.

Devil Valentine has earned 90-plus Beyer Figures while winning his last two outings with authority, including the restricted Deputy Minister Stakes. The runner-up in the seven-furlong Deputy Minister, Moonlight Affair, came back to win against her own sex in Wednesday's Classy N' Smart Stakes.

Highland Legacy was a huge disappointment in the spring, and has been absent since he finished ninth in the June 24 Queen's Plate. He worked a strong mile over the training track Nov. 14 for trainer Steve Owens.

Indian Dan also struggled in the spring, and was gelded prior to his longshot triumph in a July 6 allowance on turf. He rallied wide to nail Devil Valentine on the wire in the one-mile Vice Regent.

Indian Dan finished third in the Deputy Minister in his first main-track start since May. "Devil Valentine is no doubt the horse to beat," said Indian Dan's trainer, John Ross. "We just hope to get a little closer to him this time."

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