08/10/2005 12:00AM

8-year-old far from through

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - At 8 years old, Buckeye Bates isn't as fast as he once was. Nevertheless, the classy British Columbia-bred gelding still knows how to win races, and he looks very live in the feature race at Hastings Friday.

It's a tough spot, though. A very sharp Strategic Intrigue and the speedy Above the Clouds have also been entered in the 6 1/2-furlong claiming race, which drew six horses. It goes as the seventh race.

Buckeye Bates is clearly the class of the field. He's won 16 of his 32 lifetime starts, including his last two, and he's finished worse than third only five times. In fact, only twice has he not picked up a check for his owners, Sharlea Stable. Beset by physical problems throughout his career, Buckeye Bates has been managed judiciously by his trainer, Frank Barroby.

Buckeye Bates showed great potential with a 13-length win when he debuted in a $25,000 maiden race as a 3-year-old. But he ran only one more time at 3, finishing fourth in a $50,000 optional race. Barroby has raced him sparingly since then, but it's paid off in spades as Buckeye Bates has earned $212,388.

Buckeye Bates stalked a quick pace set by Above the Clouds in a $20,000 claiming sprint in his latest win, and with Justin Stein retaining the mount, he should get a similar trip here.

Strategic Intrigue finished a close fourth behind Commodore Craig in the B.C. Cup Sprint Aug. 1 and should appreciate the drop into a claiming race.