05/13/2004 12:00AM

Two longshots rate fighting chance


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Forever Grand and Mulligan the Great are the two big names in Saturday's $134,750 New Providence Stakes at Woodbine, but longshots Norfolk Knight and Sophia's Prince should not be overlooked in the six-furlong dash for Ontario-sired runners.

Norfolk Knight, a huge 17-hands-high gelding, earned nearly $250,000 last year and finished first or second in eight of 14 starts. He capped his 2003 campaign with back-to-back allowance scores at seven furlongs under apprentice Jill Scharfstein.

Norfolk Knight faced several imposing stakes winners in his season opener, a five-furlong allowance in which he rallied from far back to finish third after being checked in traffic near the wire. Trainer Hugo Dittfach, who doubles as Norfolk Knight's exercise rider, was delighted with the performance.

"I thought it was a great race," Dittfach said. "He didn't have all the luck in the world, but he gave it his all. If he had been checked a little earlier in the race, he would have been better off, because he always digs in the last eighth of a mile. There was no place to go, and he just ran out of track. He was actually on a horse's rear end for a couple of strides."

Sophia's Prince also had a productive 2003 season, winning three allowance races and compiling earnings of $201,998 in nine starts. Perhaps his best effort was a half-length loss to Mulligan the Great in the seven-furlong Overskate Stakes.

Sophia's Prince hasn't run since Nov. 29, but trainer John Leblanc Jr. predicted that Sophia's Prince won't need a race.

"He's doing great," Leblanc said. "He's been going in company his last three works, and all of them have been dynamite. When he gets good he tells me, and he's been telling me that he wants to go out and play."

Forever Grand was the Sovereign Award runner-up in the champion sprinter and champion older horse categories in 2003. He won last year's New Providence with a powerful wide rally and went on to capture three other stakes on the year.

A 5-year-old, Forever Grand was fifth in his lone start this year, the Jacques Cartier Stakes, a race which trainer Bob Tiller says he believes Forever Grand needed.

Mulligan the Great could be the favorite in his first appearance since Oct. 19, when he finished third in the Grade 3 Highlander Handicap. He has earned a triple-digit Beyer Figure on three occasions and was victorious in two stakes last year for trainer Cliff Hopmans.