11/18/2004 1:00AM

Two powers duel in Slots Cup


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Potential champions Norfolk Knight and A Bit O'Gold will clash on Saturday in the Grade 3 Woodbine Slots Cup Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile race worth $157,950.

Norfolk Knight, a huge 5-year-old trained by Hugo Dittfach, is a leading candidate for this year's Sovereign Award as champion older runner. He notched his first stakes win in the June 12 Steady Growth, but then failed to hit the top two spots in his next four outings.

Norfolk Knight went on Lasix for a Sept. 26 allowance race, which he won easily after setting a slow pace, earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure. Later he upset Mobil in the Grade 3 Durham Cup Handicap, receiving a 100 Beyer for running nine furlongs in 1:51.40.

Norfolk Knight remained unbeaten on Lasix with a powerful performance in the prep for the Slots Cup. He dueled through fast early fractions in that 1 1/16-mile allowance and drew off in the stretch to prevail by nearly 11 lengths, with a 99 Beyer.

Dittfach, a former jockey who won the 1961 Queen's Plate aboard Blue Light, worked Norfolk Knight himself on Nov. 12. They went five-eighths over the main track in 1:00.80 seconds.

"He went fantastic," Dittfach said. "He had the second-best five-eighths work that day. I had to do something with him, because he was getting too sharp. He's been running hard every race, but he keeps coming back good and looking for more. He's just so powerful."

A Bit O'Gold, the probable champion 3-year-old this year, won two-thirds of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales and Breeders' Stakes. He also finished second in the Queen's Plate.

Trainer Catherine Day Phillips gave A Bit O'Gold a break after the Canadian Triple Crown and was pleased with his workmanlike win in the Oct. 10 Ontario Derby, for which he got an 84 Beyer.

"He went into the Ontario Derby in good order and did what he was supposed to do," Day Phillips said. "I know he didn't get a very big Beyer, he did it very comfortably. He came out of it well and has been training very aggressively."

Day Phillips expects A Bit O'Gold to assume a pace-tracking position near Norfolk Knight, the lone front-runner in the four-horse Slots Cup field.