07/21/2006 12:00AM

Almost Par finds stride going long


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - With scores going low in the first two rounds of the British Open, almost par just isn't going to cut it. At Hastings, though, Almost Par, a 3-year-old gelding trained by Barb Heads, just might be good enough to win the featured race Sunday. The $75,000 optional claiming race at 1 1/16 miles drew seven 3-year-olds and goes as the eighth race.

Almost Par didn't look like a potential stakes horse prior to a second-place finish, beaten a neck, in the CTHS Sales Stakes June 25. His lone win was in a $25,000 maiden race May 7 and he was almost 30-1 when he finished fourth in a $45,000 optional race in his race preceding the Sales Stakes. Almost Par was stretching out for the first time in the Sales Stakes, and Heads was correct when she predicted that he would be a much better horse when he went around three turns.

Pedro Alvarado will ride Almost Par for the first time Sunday.

The lone stakes winner in the field is Sungold Wonder, who also is trained by Heads. Sungold Wonder won the Jack Diamond Futurity last year and he is coming off a very good effort in the Sales Stakes, where he made a strong late run to finish a close third. Sungold Wonder pulled himself up during a Wednesday work, but with his usual rider Jorge Espitia up, he came back to post a bullet half-mile move on Thursday.