TORONTO, April 29 - John C. Oxley's Northern Passion cemented her status as a top contender for the Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, with a rail-skimming run to win the $150,000 Fury Stakes, at Woodbine.

The First Samurai-A Touch of Glory chestnut, bred in Ontario by Mel P. Lawson, settled near the back of the seven-horse field in the early going under jockey Luis Contreras as City Trip set sharp fractions of :23.40 and :46.90 in the seven-furlong 'Poly' sprint.

Entering the far turn, Northern Passion accelerated along the rail inside her rivals to command the lead and was ridden out a length and three-quarter winner, in a final time of 1:22.78. Stablemate Dene Court closed for place, a length and three-quarters in front of Casa Loma.

Contreras, who guided Northern Passion to a sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park last time out, was full of praise for his filly.

"She was great." exclaimed Contreras, who, last September, steered Northern Passion to victory in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes, at Woodbine. "I think she's better than last year. I like this filly and she's got a big heart."

Kathryn Sullivan, assistant to trainer Mark Casse, was pleased with the trip engineered by Contreras.

"Luis had her in a perfect position," offered Sullivan. "He (Contreras) saw the hole and went right up it. Dene (Court) came right after her. This horse has some conditioning on her and she showed her class today."

Northern Passion, listed at 8-1 in the Queen's Plate Winterbook, will now be amongst the favourites for the Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, which will be held on Sunday, June 3.

She returned $3.90, $2.40 and $2.10, combining with Dene Court ($2.60, $2.20) for an $8.20 exactor. Casa Loma ($2.50) rounded out a triactor worth $18.50. A $1 superfecta (Awesome Fire) returned $59.40.

Live racing at Woodbine continues on Wednesday night. First post is 6:45 p.m.