07/05/2004 12:00AM

Touchnow captures Labatt Bison City Stakes


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Touchnow, under the clever handling of jockey Patrick Husbands, prevailed by a neck following a stretch long-duel with the previously undefeated 1-9 favorite Eye of the Sphynx to capture the $250,000 Labatt Bison City Stakes here Sunday.

The 6-1 second choice in the field of six for the 1 1/16 mile Bison City, Touchnow ensured that the Triple Tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies would remain unclaimed through the fifth year of its existence.

"I knew I had plenty of horse underneath me," said Husbands. "She pricked her ears, and fought that filly off."

Eye of the Sphynx had captured the first leg of the series, the 1 1/8 mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks on June 6, with Touchnow 4.25 lengths back in second.

But, the day here Sunday belonged to Touchnow, a daughter of Pleasant Tap who is owned by George Farr and trained by Reade Baker.

Saving ground throughout after breaking from the inside post, Touchnow launched her bid on the turn for home and engaged Eye of the Sphynx, who had stalked the pace throughout under Todd Kabel.

Eye of the Sphynx ended1.75 lengths clear of third-place finisher My Vintage Port with On Account of Me, early pacesetter Vividly, and the badly-beaten Silky Tresses completing the order of finish.

On Account of Me and Silky Tresses also are trained by Baker, who was recording his second Bison City upset after sending out the 37-1 Synchronized to defeat Woodbine Oaks winner and odds-on favorite Touch Dial here in 1999.

Touchnow returned $15.10 and keyed a $19.00 exactor and $52.50 triactor. The final time was 1:45.57.

Bred in Ontario by Richard Lister, Touchnow collected $150,000 for her first stakes victory and second career win from five starts to bring her overall earnings to $290,758.

Touchnow and Eye of the Sphynx should renew their rivalry in the third leg of the Tiara, the $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes over 1.25 miles of turf at Woodbine Aug. 1.

***Roman Romance ($26.50), based here with trainer John Simms, rallied strongly under Jake Barton to score by a neck in Sunday's $100,000 supporting feature, the Daryl Wells Sr. Memorial Stakes.

Woodbine invaders Spanish Decree, Ontheqt and Tamara finished second through fourth, respectively, in the field of six for the first running of the six-furlong race for Canadian-bred fillies and mares.