06/03/2005 12:00AM

Two hoping to punch Plate ticket


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Out From Africa and March With Me both came into their 3-year-old seasons with legitimate designs on the $1 million Queen's Plate. Both have made it to the post only once this season, however, and Sunday's Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be a critical test of their worthiness for the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here June 26.

Out From Africa made only two starts as a 2-year-old, winning a maiden special at six furlongs and then finishing second to Dave the Knave in the Sunny's Halo, a 6 1/2-furlong overnight stakes for Canadian-breds.

"At the end of last year he had a small issue, and we had to give him some time off," said John Ross, who trains Out From Africa for the Huntington Stud Farm of Dan Mooney.

Ross also had to take some time off, to undergo hip replacement surgery. Meanwhile, Mooney started up Out From Africa at his farm in February.

"The horse had a real good winter," said Ross. "When he came in to me here on the first of March, he was all set to go. He had a lot of miles under him. He's been in training ever since.

"We've been trying to manage things, but in a perfect world, I wish I had another race under his belt."

Ross said he initially had hoped to use the Queenston, a seven-furlong stakes here May 7, as one of Out From Africa's key Queen's Plate preps. When the Woodbine stakes schedule was released in mid-February, though, the Queenston, which previously had been open to all Canadian-breds, was restricted to Ontario foals at the direction of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society. Out From Africa is a British Columbia-bred.

"That made it a bit tougher for us," said Ross, who had entered Out From Africa in an earlier race that failed to fill and was eventually canceled.

Out From Africa wound up running in a first-level allowance over six furlongs here May 14, and he won by three-quarters of a length over the New York-bred Accountforthegold.

"I was very impressed with him; he beat a nice horse," said Ross, noting that Accountforthegold was coming off a second in his season debut to Canadian champion 2-year-old Wholelottabourbon in the six-furlong Woodstock.

"He was quick out of the gate, but Gerry had a nice hold of the horse and took him right back," said Ross. "And he galloped out good; that was our plan."

Out From Africa came back to work seven furlongs in 1:30.20 and gallop out a mile here May 25. On Friday, Ross applied the finishing touches, sending Out From Africa to breeze three furlongs in 37.60 and gallop out a half-mile with jockey Gerry Olguin aboard.

"Gerry was happy with him, and I was happy with him," said Ross. "Typically, he's not a fast work horse. He does what he has to do."

March With Me, owned and trained by Audre Cappuccitti, started six times as a 2-year-old and hit his best stride when stretching out late in the season.

After winning his maiden over 1 1/16 miles here Oct. 10 and coming back one month later with a smart allowance victory at a mile and 70 yards, March With Me headed down to Florida, and Cappuccitti had the Plate high on his agenda. After about two weeks at Palm Meadows, though, March With Me fell ill with pneumonia and wound up being sent to a farm in the Ocala area, where he spent the next two months.

"I brought him back to Palm Meadows at the end of February and started training him there in March, very lightly," said Cappuccitti.

March With Me arrived back at Woodbine in late March, had his first recorded breeze April 11, and made his season debut in the Grade 3 Marine over 1 1/16 miles here May 21, when he finished last of seven.

"It's hard to go 1 1/16 miles like that first time against horses that have been running," said Cappuccitti. "He definitely got something out of it, and he's doing well now. He's doing everything right. But we're really playing catch-up. I hope he runs better. He's certainly on the right path."

Ready and Alluring eyes Oaks

Ready and Alluring checked into Woodbine on Thursday and is being pointed to the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies next Sunday.

Owned and bred by Bill Sorokolit, Ready and Alluring has raced just twice and was supplemented to the Oaks at a cost of $5,000.

After finishing third in her six-furlong debut at Gulfstream March 21, Ready and Alluring stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and was a 16 1/2-length winner of a maiden special at Belmont on May 11, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 84.

Ready and Alluring is trained by Randy Schulhofer, and Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for her two starts, has the call for the Oaks.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will hold its monthly meeting here Wednesday, beginning at 8 p.m. in the second-floor International Room.

Scheduled head-table guests include trainer John Cardella.