05/30/2002 12:00AM

Truly a trial for 'Classic'


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - While most of his Canadian-bred contemporaries have been slugging it out in the local preps for the June 23 Queen's Plate, Classic Case has taken a different approach.

Classic Case has raced twice in 2002, winning the March 23 Budweiser Challenger over one mile on turf at Tampa Bay and then finishing sixth in Churchill's Grade 3 Crown Royal American Turf over 1 1/16 miles May 3.

But Classic Case will be looking to merge back into the mainstream here Saturday, when he makes his meet debut and his first main-track start of the year in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.

"He definitely likes the grass; he still has something to prove on the dirt," said Mark Casse, who trains Classic Case for the Stonerside Stable of Robert and Janice McNair. "This is definitely going to be a Plate trial. If he doesn't run a decent race, we won't run him in the Queen's Plate."

The only time Classic Case ran long on dirt, he finished second, beaten a neck, in a 1 1/16-mile entry-level allowance race, his final appearance as a 2-year-old.

Casse had planned to run Classic Case on the dirt at Gulfstream Park, and even shipped the horse there from his winter base in Ocala only to see his chosen race scrapped because of a shortage of entries.

"I was searching for a place to run him," said Casse. "The Tampa race ended up being a really good race."

Classic Case rallied from just off the pace to win the Challenger, and the second-place finisher, Red Masque, won Keeneland's Forerunner in his next outing.

Casse, who wanted to start Classic Case once more before the Plate Trial, originally had considered Keeneland's Lexington Stakes, but when that race appeared to be coming up much tougher than anticipated, he decided the Crown Royal American Turf would be Classic Case's stepping-stone.

"I said all along that that race wasn't really that important," said Casse, referring to the Crown Royal. "We already knew that he's a nice grass horse, and I just thought it was good timing - I'd get a month between there and the Plate Trial."

While Casse was not entirely satisfied with Classic Case's performance at Churchill Downs, he believes the outing served its purpose.

"He got a little wound up and was a little tough to handle, plus it was a very, very tough field," said the trainer. "He didn't run badly; he was on the lead, and I didn't really want him to be. Hopefully, Patrick can get him to relax a little bit early."

Patrick Husbands, who rode Classic Case in five of his six starts here last year, will be aboard for the first time this year in the Plate Trial.

Rob Cat to try grass

Rob Cat, a Casse-trained colt, was supplemented to the Queen's Plate at a cost of $15,000 but will run elsewhere.

Rob Cat began his career with promise, winning over seven furlongs in the slop here April 13. But he has disappointed in two subsequent outings, finishing fourth at seven furlongs and a faltering seventh at 1 1/16 miles.

"It's been kind of strange," said Casse. "His last two starts, he moves up like he's running very easily and then just kind of really flattens out quicker than you would think.

"Next time you see him will be on the grass, I'm sure."

Two for Alywow

Casse also will be represented in Saturday's Alywow, with Forum Search and Jealous Forum both entered in the 6 1/2-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies.

Forum Search and Jealous Forum both race for the Mockingbird Farm of their breeder, Harry T. Mangurian Jr.

Second in her two tries on turf last year, including the five-furlong Prom at The Meadowlands, Forum Search was a romping winner at five furlongs on dirt in her local seasonal bow and worked five furlongs on the training turf course here last Sunday in 1:01.

"Forum Search ran a big race in her last start," said Casse, "and she came back and worked unbelievable the other day on the grass."

Jealous Forum has started just once on turf, finishing fourth here in last fall's one-mile Natalma, and launched her current campaign with a last-place finish in the six-furlong Star Shoot.

"She never really engaged," said Casse, who sent out Jealous Forum to win the five-furlong My Dear here last June. "I really don't know why. She's probably training as good as she ever has, if not better."

Attfield pair work together

Alpha Heat and A Fleets Dancer worked six furlongs in company on the training track here Thursday, with Alpha Heat finishing in 1:13.20 under jockey Jim McAleney and A Fleets Dancer in 1:13.60 under Robert Landry.

"They both worked super," said Roger Attfield, who trains Alpha Heat for Stronach Stable and A Fleets Dancer for Cam Allard.

Alpha Heat is heading for the June 8 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

A Fleets Dancer, Canada's champion older horse in 2001, should make his next appearance June 15 in either Belmont's Brooklyn, Pimlico's Baltimore Breeders' Cup, or Churchill's Stephen Foster.

Runaway Love runs away

Runaway Love seized command on the far turn en route to a 2 1/4-length victory in the $142,125 Steady Growth Stakes at Woodbine Wednesday.

Runaway Love tracked quick fractions of 23.05 and 46.45 seconds, which were set by Storm Cruiser, in the 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired runners. He assumed command through three-quarters in 1:11.28, and held off bids from Ice Water and Geraint in the stretch to complete the distance in 1:44.67.

"We had a good stalking trip," said Emile Ramsammy, who rode the winner. "He had a chance to relax, and had a nice target to run at."

Ice Water edged favored Geraint for second, while Thank You Sir ended up fourth in the 12-horse field. I and I was scratched.

Runaway Love, trained by Abraham Katryan, returned $8.10. A 5-year-old gelding, he earned $85,275 for owners Martin Dinkin and Brandon Brako Stable.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink