09/06/2005 11:00PM

Alexandersrun proves a pro


AUBURN, Wash. - Alexandersrun came to trainer Tim McCanna's barn ready to run in last month's Seattle Slew Handicap, and run he did, winning by a neck in a rapid 1:41.60 for the 1 1/16 miles.

The trainer figured all he needed to do was to keep Alexandersrun on an even keel for the month preceding Monday's $100,000 , but he feared he was botching the assignment.

"He was real quiet before his last race, and he wasn't quite the same for this one," said McCanna. "I was worried that I had changed him."

Those fears intensified as McCanna watched Alexandersrun drop back to ninth in the field of 12 on the backstretch, some eight lengths behind the pacesetting Cowboy Cruisser. The trainer wasn't alone, either, because rider Ricky Frazier was beginning to share his doubts.

"He left the gate really well and he settled nicely, but it was a lot of work getting him back into the bridle," said Frazier. "Once he started running again he passed a couple of horses, and then he got aggressive. By the time we hit the three-eighths pole, I was pretty sure we were going to win."

Alexandersrun still had to deal with a stubborn Norm's Nephew, who moved to take command at the top of the lane and opened a 1 1/2-length advantage with a furlong to run in the 1 1/8-mile derby. Alexandersrun pulled even inside the sixteenth pole, however, and inched away under strong urging to score by three-quarters of a length in 1:49.

"Ricky is the guy you want to have riding for you in these kinds of races," said McCanna. "He really had to work hard today, but he did what it takes to win."

It was the ninth stakes win of the season for Frazier and the seventh for McCanna, who is now just one off the single-season Emerald Downs record of eight shared by Steve Bullock and Bud Klokstad. Two of those wins came courtesy of Alexandersrun, who is perfect in the Northwest after having been purchased from East Coast interests by owner Thomas Bell in July.

Bell, who is part of the management team at Hastings Park, admitted that he would like to run Alexandersrun next in the Grade 3, $250,000 British Columbia Derby at Hastings on Sept. 24. He said the decision will be left up to McCanna, however.

"He is definitely going to stay with Tim, and Tim can do whatever he wants with him," said Bell. "Wherever he goes, I hope Ricky can keep riding him. I don't want to break up a winning team."

For his part, McCanna said he will likely consult with groom Cruz Duarte before deciding on the next assignment for Alexandersrun.

"Cruz spends a lot of time with this horse, and I value his opinion as to how the horse is doing," said McCanna. "Cruz is the one who fiddled around with him and got him comfortable here, and he really deserves a lot of credit."

Starbird Road looking sharp

Starbird Road made his bid for a berth in the Oct. 2 Chinook Pass Sprint Stakes in Saturday's feature, a $32,000 optional claiming affair at six furlongs. Under Debbie Hoonan, Starbird Road came from just off the pace to score by 3 3/4 lengths over Eastern Accent in a sizzling 1:08.20.

It was the fifth win and the ninth exacta finish from just 10 starts for Starbird Road, a 4-year-old Washington-bred by Count the Time who is trained by Sharon Ross.

"He missed all of his 3-year-old season with quite a few problems, not just one, but he came back this year as a total pro," said Ross.

Hoonan shared the trainer's enthusiasm.

"I really look forward to riding him," she said. "He gives you that feeling that you live for as a rider."

That is high praise for a horse who has flown mainly under the radar at this meet, and it might be worth remembering come Washington Cup Day.


Sunday was a bad day for the punter who wagered $5,000 to show on Flying Memo in the featured sprint for fillies and mares, which drew only five entrants. Flying Memo finished second as the 4-5 favorite, but she was disqualified and placed fourth for coming in to cause crowding near the seven-sixteenths pole. The infraction was not obvious on any video of the race shown to the public, however, as there is no camera giving a head-on view of that part of the track.

More than $11,000 of a show pool totaling less than $15,000 was wagered on Flying Memo, so her disqualification resulted in show payoffs of $14.40, $18.60, and $14.60 for the official top three finishers.