06/23/2004 11:00PM

After 50 years, Regan's a Plate first-timer

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - There are a handful of first-time Queen's Plate participants among the owners of this year's hopefuls.

But it's safe to say that none has paid his dues more than Larry Regan, whose son, trainer Tim Regan, will saddle the homebred Will He Crow on Sunday in Canada's most venerable horse race.

"I've had some great horses," said the 72-year-old Regan, "but I've never had one for the Queen's Plate.

"It's every Canadian's ambition, as an owner and breeder."

Regan started out solo as an owner in 1951, but then was a partner along with his brother, Jim, from 1955 through 1980, when Jim retired.

But the story of Larry Regan's participation in the industry goes much deeper.

Regan served as president of the local Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association for 27 years, retiring from his final term last fall, and of the national horsemen's association for 16 years, ending in 1994. His contributions earned him a Sovereign Award as Man of the Year in 1987 and induction into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1989.

But right now, Regan is much more concerned with the present, in the form of Will He Crow.

"We always had high hopes," said Regan. "The colt showed promise when we broke him, and then when we trained him."

Will He Crow's career did not get off on the right foot, however.

"We had him ready to run last September," said Regan. "But when he was tattooed, they'd reversed two numbers. We put him in a race, and they scratched him."

The glitch took quite a while to undo, and by the time Will He Crow did make it to the races, Regan was in the hospital following heart surgery.

In his Nov. 20 debut, Will He Crow rallied smartly but encountered some traffic problems and finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length.

"We were very pleased with him," said Regan. "We wanted to see if he'd go two turns, so we ran him back 10 days later, in the stakes. He ran well."

After finishing fourth behind Winter Whiskey that day, in the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie, Will He Crow went home for the winter with visions of the Queen's Plate dancing in Regan's head.

"We'd always thought he was a distance horse," said Regan. "He's a nice, big, strong colt and has a distance pedigree, on his dam's side."

Will He Crow raced over off tracks in his first two outings this year, finishing fifth over 6 1/2 furlongs and sixth over 1 1/16 miles, and the Plate dream seemed no closer to reality.

That all changed, however, when Will He Crow worked six furlongs in 1:13 here May 29.

"He came home his last eighth in less than 12 seconds," said Regan, who then watched Will He Crow earn his trip to the Plate when he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and graduated impressively here June 5.

While heading into the Queen's Plate off a maiden win may seem overly optimistic, Will He Crow actually will be one of three attempting that feat and one of six nonwinners-of-two in the race this year.

And, Will He Crow has a double dose of history on his side.

His rider, Steven Bahen, captured the 2002 Plate with rank outsider T J's Lucky Moon, who was coming off his maiden win at 1 1/16 miles.

Silvera colt to debut in Victoria

With all the hoopla surrounding the Queen's Plate, Saturday's Victoria Stakes is certain to slip by under the radar.

But the five-furlong Victoria, the first stakes race of the meeting for 2-year-olds, will be eagerly anticipated in many quarters, including those of trainer Arthur Silvera.

Criminal Mind, a colt owned by Jeff Moldofsky and Norm Ortofsky, will be looking to give Silvera his third straight victory in the Victoria.

Unfortunately, the second of those first-place finishes did not stand up as Gemini Dream was disqualified and placed last of seven after leading throughout the 2003 edition.

Gemini Dream raced for owners Larry Spindler, Moldofsky and Silvera, the same partnership that fielded the 2002 Victoria winner, El Ruller.

Both El Ruller and Gemini Dream were making their second career appearances in the Victoria, whereas Criminal Mind will be making his debut.

"I entered him before, but the race didn't go," said Silvera. "But the way he's been going, I don't think he'll need a race. He's working like a horse who's run before.

"It's not so much that he's working fast. It's the way he's conducting himself that impresses me the most."

Criminal Mind, a Florida-bred by Cryptoclearance out of the Alleged Mare, French Quill, was an $11,000 yearling purchase made by Arthur Silvera's father, trainer Laurie Silvera.

"He has the pedigree to go a mile and a half," said the younger Silvera, "but there's always an exception.

"I think he's a horse who'll be very flexible - five furlongs isn't out of the question. I'm not saying he'll win, but I think he'll run a very good race."

Silvera had a second Victoria nominee in Gemini's Revenge, who would have been an appropriately named winner but will not be in the lineup.

Gemini's Revenge, a filly, is owned by Spindler, Moldofsky, and Silvera.

Ando gets first local victory

Apprentice jockey Happy Ando rode his first Woodbine winner Wednesday night, guiding Dino the Immigrant to a $46.20 upset in the second race.

The 24-year-old Ando, born in Japan, rode briefly here last fall and recorded his first career winner in the first race of this year's Fort Erie meeting, on May 1.

Ando, who is represented by agent John Calleja, has since recorded seven more wins at Fort Erie.