11/02/2001 1:00AM

Will Heliotrope get to make a curtain call?


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - She may run or she may stay in the barn, but Heliotrope definitely will be heading to the breeding shed after Sunday's River Memories Stakes at Woodbine.

"If it's soft at all I won't run her," said David Bell, who has trained Heliotrope throughout her productive career for her owners and breeders, Dick and Jo Ellen Shaw.

"I don't want to tear her up in her last start. She won on a yielding turf course last time, but only just. I still don't think she handles soft turf."

Heliotrope actually was "retired" once before, after she came up with a tendon injury while training here in the spring of 1999.

But it was too late in the season to breed her, and when Bell visited Heliotrope that fall the tendon problem had disappeared and it was decided to send her back to the races.

That move turned out to be fortuitous as Heliotrope won 4 of 9 starts last year, including the Grade 3 Nassau, and was voted Canada's champion turf female.

While she has failed to win a stakes this year at age 6, Heliotrope has prevailed in three top-level allowance races and finished second in three added-money events, beaten a total of 1 3/4 lengths.

The mare was highly competitive in two starts against males, falling short by just three-quarters of a length as the runner-up in the Grade 3 Play the King and by 1 1/4 lengths when fourth in the Grade 2 Nearctic.

"She's had a good year," said Bell. "She's been unlucky in two or three stakes."

Heliotrope comes into the River Memories with a career record of 10 wins, six seconds, and four thirds from 31 starts, good for earnings of $665,291.

Neil Poznansky, who has ridden Heliotrope in her first 12 and last 17 starts, has the curtain call. Her only other jockey was Gary Boulanger, who was based at Gulfstream when he rode Heliotrope in two starts there in 1999,

"She's been good to us," said Bell. "She's sound enough she could race next year, but I don't know what more she could do."

The River Memories also could be the swan song for Ever After, a 4-year-old filly whom Bell trains for the Pin Oak Stable of Josephine Abercrombie.

Ever After won stakes at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park last year but is 1 for 5 in 2001, winning a classified allowance race in her debut for Bell here July 21.

Bell said that Ever After's stakes-winning status and pedigree could make her a more valuable commodity as a broodmare than as a racehorse.

Kiss a Native rounding into shape

While Heliotrope and Ever After are winding down, another Bell runner is just getting wound up for a late-season campaign.

Kiss a Native, Canada's champion 3-year-old male last year for his owner and breeder, John Franks, was sidelined by a fractured cannon bone here last November and did not make it back to the races until Aug. 5.

After opening with a lackluster effort in the Seagram Cup, Kiss a Native won the allowance prep for the Durham Cup but then finished second to A Fleets Dancer in the Durham itself.

"He's just coming around," said Bell, who hopes to run Kiss a Native here in this coming Saturday's Autumn Handicap.

Leading apprentice arrives

Apprentice jockey Leanne Noel, who checked in from Alberta last week, was named on two horses at Fort Erie on Saturday and is slated to ride Luvgetsmeeverytime here in Sunday's second race.

The race will not be the first here for the 27-year-old Noel, who began her career in Winnipeg in the fall of 1998 and had one mount here that fall under her maiden name, Leanne Painter.

Misfortune struck shortly thereafter as the apprentice broke her leg during a training accident in Ocala, Fla., and was out for six months.

She came back in late May to compete at Assiniboia Downs and rode 13 winners there in 1999 before relocating to Alberta for a 2000 campaign which yielded 24 winners.

This year has been a different story, however, as Noel is Canada's leading apprentice rider in races won, having scored 17 times at Stampede Park this spring and 43 times at the Northlands Park meet.

"It's been a fantastic year," said Noel. "I got an extension on my apprentice allowance, until Nov. 27, so I thought I better come out here and try and get noticed."

Changeintheweather Florida-bound

Changeintheweather, who was put away for the season after winning the Grade 1 Grey Stakes for Bell and Pin Oak here Oct. 8, currently is on the farm in Kentucky.

"The plan is just to give him 30 days of turnout," said Bell, "and then head to Florida in mid-to-late November."

Bell, who last raced at Gulfstream three winters ago, hopes to return but has not yet secured stalls for the 2002 session.