10/09/2003 12:00AM

Winning Chance on rebound


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Danny Vella was anticipating a lucrative yearling sales stakes day here Sept. 1, with Winning Chance an odds-on choice for the Algoma and Phantom Light looking like the horse to beat in the Elgin.

Instead, the day turned out to be a major disappointment for Vella and Stronach Stable. Winning Light finished a distant second and Phantom Light was a late scratch after coming up with an infection that has sidelined him for the season.

Winning Chance will be looking to redeem herself here Saturday when she starts in the 1 1/8-mile allowance prep for the Grade 3, $175,000 Maple Leaf Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares here Nov. 1.

The field of 10 also includes One for Rose, who was a 9 1/2-length winner of the Algoma for Tucci Stable and trainer Sid Attard.

Winning Chance, Vella said at his Woodbine barn Thursday morning, "was training great going in to her last race, but she didn't run as good as I thought.

"I think part of it was the racetrack that day. It was a wet-fast track, and she does not like that."

Vella said Winning Chance also had disliked the track in her previous start, as she finished fourth as the heavy choice in the Kamar here July 13.

"She likes a fast track," said Vella. "That's what we'll be hoping for Saturday. I'm looking for a better race out of her."

Winning Chance breezed five furlongs in 1:03.20 here Monday, a move that Vella actually preferred to her usual practice of firing bullet workouts.

"She's a touch racy when she works," said Vella. "I think her best work of her life was her last one. She was very relaxed."

Phantom Light to winter in Florida

Phantom Light had a minor filling in a hind leg on the morning of the Elgin, and the problem worsened and the colt was scratched that afternoon.

Vella said Phantom Light is still fighting the infection, and that the horse had been sent to nearby Adena Springs North to be turned out for the season.

"He'll go to Florida, for the winter, with me," Vella said. "There's no doubt in my mind he's the best older horse in Canada this year."

Phantom Light won two Grade 3 stakes here this year, the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse and the 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day. His last start of the year turned out to be Arlington's Grade 2 Washington Park Handicap, where he finished last of five behind the Breeders' Cup Classic contender Perfect Drift.

Euchre back in the fold

Vella welcomed a face from the past into his shed row here recently when Euchre came over from Adena Springs North, where he had spent the last couple of months with farm trainer Sean Smullen.

"He's doing very well," said Vella. "I'm just getting to know him.

"I haven't had him since he was 2, so I've missed about five years. He's a good old boy."

The Ontario-bred Euchre, 7, has spent the vast majority of his racing days in California. His career highlights include victories in Hollywood's Grade 2 Bel Air in 2000 and in two Grade 3 races, the All America at Bay Meadows and the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows, in 2001.

Euchre made two starts in Ontario as a 3-year-old, finishing third in both the Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes, and returns as a winner of 6 of 27 races and $900,145.

Vella is pointing Euchre for the Grade 3, $150,000 Woodbine Slots Cup, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward on Sept. 8.

New filly impresses her rider

An interesting recent addition to the Vella forces here is In Love Again.

A Kentucky-bred 3-year-old filly, In Love Again was a game winner of a second-level allowance at seven furlongs in her local debut Sept. 28 and elicited praise from her rider, Todd Kabel.

"Todd came back and said 'This is a nice filly,' " said Vella. "When you can make two moves like she did, she's got to be a pretty good horse."

In Love Again had won her maiden race and her first allowance condition at Pimlico this spring but had been off since finishing sixth at Delaware Park on July 9.

Copper Trail scores in Frost King Stakes

Copper Trail ($8.70) dueled 1-2 favorite Kent Ridge into submission en route to a score in the $129,250 Frost King Stakes here Wednesday night.

Francine Villeneuve rode Copper Trail, who ran in unison with Kent Ridge through moderate fractions in the seven-furlong dash for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds. Copper Trail began to draw off at the eighth pole, and went on to prevail by 2 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:24.82.

"He went to the lead quite easily, which wasn't really the plan," Villeneuve said. "But he was doing it well within himself, so it was okay. I had a lot of horse, and I waited for as long as I could to go.

"He's still pretty green. He's a big, dumb guy, but he's got a lot of talent. He's a long-legged horse, with a huge stride. He'll keep going."

Copper Trail, who won his maiden in his previous start, in the Juvenile Stakes at Fort Erie, earned $77,550 for Stolar Stable and trainer Jim Day.

Kent Ridge held second, while Archers Bow finished third in the six-horse field.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink