10/17/2004 11:00PM

This time, getting loose good for Slew's Saga

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The first time Slew's Saga stepped onto the turf, he got loose after unseating his rider, Steven Bahen, and proceeded to take a couple of unsupervised turns around the training course.

Sunday, the second time he tried the grass, Slew's Saga got loose again.

But this time the location was the E.P. Taylor turf course and the occasion was the $250,000 , a 1 1/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds in which Slew's Saga romped to a 9 3/4-length victory with Bahen firmly ensconced in the irons.

"He seemed to love the turf," said Bob Tiller, who trains Slew's Saga for owners Karen and Mickey Taylor. "I had no idea he would move up like that. Nobody was expecting that kind of performance."

Slew's Saga was bred in Canada by the Taylors, who also owned his outstanding sire, Seattle Slew. But Slew's Saga did not exactly set the world on fire in his first three starts here, despite being well-bet on each occasion.

"He was training in California this spring," said Tiller. "He was a pretty fit horse, almost ready to race, when I got him.

"But he was kind of disappointing. He worked pretty good, but didn't carry on."

Slew's Saga put it all together in his fourth outing, a mile-and-70-yard maiden special, which also happened to be his first start around two turns.

"He's a genuine distance horse," said Tiller. "He has natural speed, and it looks like he wants to run all day."

And, while Tiller ideally would love to keep Slew's Saga on the turf, his next engagement will be the $250,000 Coronation Futurity at 1 1/8 miles on the main track here Nov. 13.

"He came here to run with Canadian-breds," said Tiller, "and he'll stick with Canadian-breds. It's worked out so far."

Simply Lovely goes long in Princess Elizabeth

Tiller will be looking to strike gold here Saturday with another Canadian-bred 2-year-old as Simply Lovely, whom he trains for Rocco Marcello, is one of the leading candidates for the $250,000 Princess Elizabeth Stakes.

Simply Lovely, who also is ridden by Bahen, will be trying two turns for the first time in the Princess Elizabeth, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies bred in Canada.

"She seems to be the boss right now," said Tiller. "If she'll go that far - that's the big question."

Simply Lovely won the seven-furlong Muskoka, a yearling sales stakes here Sept. 5, and doubled up in the six-furlong Victorian Queen, an Ontario Sire Stakes, on Oct. 6 in her last start.

Norfolk Knight, Scharfstein good team

Jill Scharfstein won 37 races and was a Sovereign Award finalist apprentice jockey last year after coming east from Saskatchewan via Alberta.

But her 2004 campaign undoubtedly will be even more memorable for Scharfstein, as she has experienced the fondest moments of her budding career courtesy of Norfolk Knight, owned and bred by Margaret Squires and trained by Hugo Dittfach.

Norfolk Knight, who upset Saturday's $159,450 Durham Cup at 1 1/8 miles, became the second stakes winner for Scharfstein.

An oversized 5-year-old gelding who was unstarted until the spring of 2003, Norfolk Knight had won 5 of 14 starts in his first campaign, with all of his successes coming in sprints.

But Norfolk Knight has added a new weapon to his arsenal this year and has become a very dangerous front-running presence around two turns.

Norfolk Knight also won the 1 1/16-mile Durham Cup prep here Oct. 16, and had become a stakes winner in the 1 1/16-mile, $129,375 Steady Growth for Ontario-sired runners here June 12.

"I originally didn't think he'd want to go around two turns," said the 23-year-old Scharfstein, who has ridden Norfolk Knight to all of his eight career victories. "But, he's stepped up to every challenge."

Norfolk Knight's next challenge could be turf, as Dittfach is eyeing the $125,000 Bunty Lawless, a one-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds here Oct. 31.

While he has yet to finish in the top three in two turf starts, Norfolk Knight performed creditably enough when a closing fourth in his last try, which came in the six-furlong prep for the Highlander Handicap here June 6.

Scharfstein, who will lose her "bug" Nov. 11, is heading into the journeyman phase of her career on a high note.

"It's been a funny year, for a lot of riders," said Scharfstein, who boosted her seasonal win total to 27 by guiding Flashy Anna, another of her favorite regular mounts, to an allowance score here Sunday.

"I may not be winning as many races but I've had quality horses, running more consistently," she said. "I've gotten to know a lot more people, and it's been a lot more fun."

Scharfstein will be looking to add to the gaiety here Wednesday evening when she pilots Millfleet in the Deputy Minister, a seven-furlong stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds.

Millfleet, a half-brother to Norfolk Knight, will be looking for his first stakes win for Dittfach and Squires after closing strongly to finish second in a 6 1/2-furlong first-level allowance for 3-year-olds and upward in his last start here Oct. 2.

"He shin-bucked on me twice this year," said Dittfach, who has watched Millfleet continue to run well off the resulting layoffs. "He ran a fantastic race for Jill the other day. He was last at the head of the lane, and was bumped badly at the 70-yard pole."

Dittfach, who won 4,000 races in a riding career that ended in 1989, recorded his first stakes win as a trainer with Artic Squire, a full brother to Norfolk Knight, in the 1999 edition of the Deputy Minister.

* Sunny Singh, who won three races in his final weekend as an apprentice, will sit out the Wednesday through Friday cards after losing an appeal of an earlier suspension.