08/07/2002 11:00PM

Watch U.S. shippers in Duchess

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The last two runnings of the Grade 3 Duchess Stakes have attracted some special 3-year-old fillies from south of the border.

Last year's visitor was Gold Mover, who finished second to the ill-fated Meadow Gem but has gone on to establish herself as one of the top female sprinters on the continent and even boasts a recent decision over the seldom-beaten Xtra Heat.

In 2000 the high-profile guest was Plenty of Light, who managed only a third-place finish here behind Heat It Up and less-heralded fellow shipper Cedar Knolls, but then became a Grade 1 stakes winner two starts later in the Spinster.

Saturday's renewal of the seven-furlong Duchess will be worth a record $147,050, and the field of 12 includes three fillies who will be making their first appearances at Woodbine.

For Rubies and Desert Gold come in from Churchill Downs, while Gilded Wings has been training at Saratoga.

The gem of the trio would appear to be For Rubies, who will be seeking her third straight victory.

Trained by Lynn Whiting, whose major claim to fame was sending out Lil E. Tee to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby, For Rubies defeated older rivals when traveling 7 1/2 furlongs under allowance terms at Churchill and then took the seven-furlong Real Deal at Arlington.

"Her last race in Chicago, it was tough to fault," said the 63-year-old Whiting, currently campaigning at Saratoga, who has been training since 1968 but will be saddling his first entrant at Woodbine.

"She's a filly that's on the improve. This looks like a step up, and it's a Grade 3. If she has another forward move in her, she's really in the game."

For Rubies, who arrived here Wednesday morning, had tuned up for the Duchess by breezing four furlongs in a bullet 47.40 seconds July 31.

"I think that should bring her into the race right," said Whiting.

For Rubies is owned by Choctaw Racing Stable, the nom de course of father and son Dwight and Perry Sutherland.

Eusebio Razo, who is based at Arlington and piloted Rylstone to victory for Whiting in the Manila Stakes there last fall, will be aboard For Rubies for the first time.

"I think he's a nice young rider," said Whiting.

Gilded Wings, second in stakes at Oaklawn and Lone Star this year, is a member of the far-flung and prolific outfit of trainer Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by Donnie Meche.

Owned by Pin Oak Stable, Gilded Wings was a winner under second-level allowance terms at Churchill last time out.

Desert Gold, coming off an entry-level allowance score at Churchill, will be making her stakes debut for trainer Patrick Byrne and Stonerside Stable. Patrick Husbands, Woodbine's leading rider, has picked up the mount.