06/18/2004 12:00AM

Assiniboia: Fancy As back again

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Fancy As attempts another comeback in Sunday's $40,000 Free Press Stakes at Assiniboia Downs, in which nine older males will go six furlongs.

Fancy As has not raced since the Stampede Park Sprint Handicap in May of last year. The 6-year-old came off a 13-month layoff to win both his starts in 2003.

Trained by Red Smith, Fancy As was last seen here finishing second behind Stage Classic in the 2001 Manitoba Derby. A Manitoba-bred gelding, Fancy As finished 2001 by winning the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park, then the British Columbia Derby and Premiers Handicap at Hastings, en route to being named top 3-year-old male and horse of the year in both Alberta and British Columbia. Fancy As has won 15 of 20 lifetime starts and is 5 for 5 at six or 6 1/2 furlongs. Regular rider Richard Hamel will be on board as he breaks from post 6.

Iwoodificould outdueled Sir Pucker last time to win his first start at Assiniboia Downs. Trained by Emile Corbel, Iwoodificould will start from post 4 with Vince Guerra in the irons.

Sir Pucker defeated a few he faces again here in his seasonal debut on May 9 before finishing second behind Iwoodificould. Trained by Harry Kube, Sir Pucker breaks from post 3 with Tim Matteucci up.

Northern Affair was under pressure for the entire race when he finished second behind Sir Pucker to begin his season. He may have bounced off that tough effort when he finished last in his most recent race. Northern Affair gets a different rider for the third straight time, as Jerry Pruitt takes the call. They start from post 2.

Dance Me Free cuts back in distance after a poor showing in the one-mile Teeworth Plate Handicap at Stampede ended a three-race win streak. A 5-year-old son of Free At Last, he breaks from the rail with Desmond Bryan on board.

Dance Me Free and Northern Affair, along with Strike the Chord (post 5, Tim Gardiner) and Runnin' the River (post 9, Keveh Nicholls) appear to be the most likely to contest the early pace.

Fancy Bru will face his older half-brother, Fancy As, for the first time. Trained by Gary Danelson, Fancy Bru finished third behind Iwoodificould and Sir Pucker in his most recent. Travis Hightower retains the mount as they break from post 8.

Smoked Em, third behind Sir Pucker and Northern Affair in his only start here, starts from post 7 with Paul Leacock in the irons.