06/19/2001 11:00PM

Watching Dawn Watcher, a good longshot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Cliff Hopmans knew he was taking a calculated risk last fall when he gave up his position as director of horsemen's relations with the Ontario Jockey Club to return to a training game that he had left a decade earlier.

"Certainly I'd thought long and hard about the adversities of being a trainer," said Hopmans. "But when things do go right, the rewards are huge."

Hopmans will get to put that theory to the test here Sunday, when he saddles longshot Dawn Watcher in the $1 million Queen's Plate.

Dawn Watcher, a winner of one race for owner D. Morgan Firestone, will have his work cut out for him as he takes on the likes of Plate Trial hero Win City and Labatt Woodbine Oaks winner Dancethruthedawn in the 1 1/4-mile Plate.

Hopmans, however, believes he has reason for optimism.

"I seriously think this horse could get a piece of it," said the trainer. "He's dead fit, and sound as a dollar. He's a very powerfully built horse; he'll get the distance."

Dawn Watcher graduated over 1 1/16 miles of slop here May 21 and then came back to finish third, beaten 6 1/2 lengths, over 1 1/16 miles of good going in his latest.

Dream Launcher, the Kentucky-bred who won that June 1 allowance, won the Victoria Park Stakes in his next outing.

"Even though in his last couple of races my horse has been right on the lead, that was just the way the races developed," said Hopmans. "I see him settling back Sunday, and closing with a big kick.

"You know you're going to get some serious pace in there, and I don't want anything to do with it."

Hopmans also was delighted with Dawn Watcher's final Plate tune-up, a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.20 over a fast main track here Tuesday morning.

Under jockey Richard Dos Ramos, who has the mount for the Plate, Dawn Watcher was clocked in 35.80 seconds for his first three furlongs and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.40.

"That's the best work he's ever given me," said Hopmans. "Richard didn't move on him, didn't ask him at all. When he came back to the barn he was playing, bucking, and squealing.

"I was cooling him out myself and he kicked me, on the back of the calf. He came out of the work perfect; I didn't."

Millennium Allstar works

Millennium Allstar, the probable third choice in the Plate for trainer and owner Sue Leslie and her partners Curtis Joseph and Don Meehan, had an unscheduled drill here Tuesday, as he was caught by the clockers breezing six furlongs in 1:15.60.

Runner-up to Win City in the Plate Trial last time out, Millennium Allstar crawled through his opening quarter in 28.40 and then quickened to a half-mile clocking of 51.40. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:30.20.

"You can see from the first part of the work, we weren't looking to make the work tab with him," said Leslie. "He just did it himself, on his own. It was a very easy breeze."

Mickey Walls subbed for Robert Landry, Millennium Allstar's regular rider, for the workout. Landry, who went down in a spill here last Friday, expects to be ready for the Plate.

Wild Years stays in New York

Wild Years, the promising maiden based at Saratoga with trainer Jim Bond, will not be making the trip north.

A son of Wild Again owned by Alnoff Stable, Wild Years has finished second in his two career outings, both at Belmont this spring, over 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles. The colt was very reluctant to enter the starting gate on both occasions and Bond had planned an extensive schooling regimen this week.

"The bottom line is, I took him to the gate again yesterday and I'm just not happy enough with him," said the trainer. "He's just washing out a little more than I'd like, and it's just asking too much of the horse at this point in time.

"I think he's an awfully talented colt, and unfortunately we weren't ready for this event. The main thing is he's still together and we'll just get ready for another day."

Bond said Wild Years could join the Canadian Triple Crown fray in Fort Erie's $350,000 Prince of Wales, the 1 3/16-mile race which is the second leg of the series July 22.

Sik and Asia, two game maidens

Despite the defection of Wild Years, there still will be a maiden presence in the Queen's Plate.

Sik, a colt claimed for $40,000 from his last start by the Sunny Acres Farm of trainer Frank Passero, and Asia, a filly owned by the Arosa Farm of Jurgen Schemmer and trained by Jim Cheadle, were scheduled to be entered for the big race here Thursday morning.

With Plate pilot Daniel David aboard, Sik worked four furlongs from the gate in 48.80 on a fast main track here Wednesday morning, getting his opening quarter in 24.60 and galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.40.

Sik has started four times, all this year, with his best effort a second-place finish while sporting a $50,000 tag over 1 1/16 miles.

Asia has seen action just three times, with her latest outing a second-place finish over 1 1/16 miles in a maiden special weight race for fillies here May 5.

"I thought she'd win her last race for fun," said Cheadle. "Two days later she had a temperature of 104, and she was completely full of mucus.

"She's been training great the last couple of weeks, and I think she'll love the distance."

Cheadle hopes to have Aaron Gryder, who will be here Sunday to pilot Texas Glitter in the Nearctic Handicap, aboard Asia.