04/10/2002 11:00PM

Whimsical locals-only affair

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The connections of the nine fillies and mares in Saturday's $138,125 Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine had to be relieved that Madame Roar wasn't nominated to that six-furlong race.

Madame Roar rolled into town from her Maryland base two weeks ago and startled the locals with an easy front-running win in the La Voyageuse Handicap, in which she ran five furlongs in a snappy 57 seconds.

"There wasn't a horse on the grounds who could have beaten [Madame Roar] at that distance that day," said Mort Hardy, the owner-trainer of La Voyageuse runner-up and likely Whimsical favorite Mysterious Affair. "Somebody knew something, because she opened up at 1-9."

Hardy was content with the performance in the La Voyageuse of Mysterious Affair, who was making her first start since last June 13, when she capped a four-race win streak in the Ballade Stakes.

"It was a good race," Hardy said. "The horses she beat by 1 1/2 lengths in the La Voyageuse were the same horses she beat by a neck and a head last year. She was running, but Madame Roar was just too far in front."

Mysterious Affair worked five-eighths over the main track in 1:03.80 on Monday, a move Hardy wasn't all that happy with.

"It wasn't exactly a great work," he said. "She went by herself, and we didn't put her blinkers on. Usually, I like her to have a pretty decent work, but she'll be all right."

Dale Hemsley retains the mount on 123-pound highweight Mysterious Affair, who beat a stellar field in the 2001 Whimsical.

Facing off against Mysterious Affair will be El Prado Essence, Dreams Go Bye, Devastating, Feathers, Madame Red, Press Exclusive, Small Promises, and Royal Dalliance.

Trainer Bob Tiller will saddle the uncoupled duo of Press Exclusive and Madame Red.

Press Exclusive could set the pace under David Clark. A 6-year-old with $304,212 in earnings, Press Exclusive has worked a steady string of bullets for this race, her first of the year.

"She's a bundle of nerves," Tiller said. "That's the thing we've worked on with her."

Madame Red, victorious in the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette Stakes in October, is also making her seasonal debut.

Dreams Go Bye and El Prado Essence finished third and fourth, respectively, in the La Voyageuse.

Dreams Go Bye, a diminutive bay trained by Mike Catania, was third behind Feathers and El Prado Essence after setting the pace Oct. 27 in the Ontario Fashion Handicap.

El Prado Essence, a seven-furlong specialist, captured the Seaway Stakes in September for trainer Audre Cappuccitti.

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