10/22/2010 11:55AM

Battle of the breeds on closing week at Fort Erie


FORT ERIE, Ontario – It’s last call at Fort Erie this week, and an intriguing 12-race Sunday program will include a Thoroughbred-Quarter Horse stakes plus two Cup races for 2-year-olds. The Fort Erie meet ends Tuesday.

Four runners from each breed will go head to head over 870 yards for a purse of $50,000 in the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred Distance Challenge.

The top money maker on the Quarter Horse side is the 6-year-old gelding Vital Drive, who has banked almost $170,000 while winning 12 of 38 races. Trained and owned by Sandra Laszlo, Vital Drive worked over a muddy track at 870 yards in 46.40 recently, and is primed to take on all comers. Marty Mercieca takes the call, and he will be going for his fourth straight win aboard Vital Drive.

Leading the Thoroughbred contenders is Daverick, a 4-year-old gelding trained by Justin Nixon and owned by Sante Cigana.

Much improved through the season, Daverick has won four straight here and brings a sizzling bullet three-furlong workout of 34 into this event. Melanie Pinto takes the call on the Daverick, who is the probable favorite.

Silver Grill, who wired the field going this distance here Oct. 2, should also have a say in the exotics for the Quarter Horse team, while Texas Blitz, a winner of four of six races this season, will be in the mix throughout for the Thoroughbred contingent.

The supporting features, which are for 2-year-olds who have started at least once at the meeting, are the Fan’s Cup and the Longshots OTC Cup, with the latter restricted to fillies. Each race will go at six furlongs and offer a purse of $30,000.

Captain Chris, trained by Nick Gonzalez, should be favored in the field of six for the Fan’s Cup.

Captain Chris stalked the pace and then ran away from the field on a sloppy surface here in his first start Sept. 28. Real Simard retains the mount.

The main danger is Tyzach, sent out by Norm McKnight. Tyzach won his debut after dueling in the early going of the six-furlong race here. Leading rider Krista Carignan will be back in the saddle.

Gonzalez, the meet’s leding trainer, also will send out leading contenders Miso Good and Bear Naked for the Longshots OTB Cup, which has attracted a field of 10.

Miso Good, who won at first asking here July 13 and has been on the shelf since that rallying score, has three recent works and should be primed to go. Terry Husbands will be aboard.

Bear Naked is the most recent winner in the lineup, having won her maiden here Oct. 5. Simard will ride.

Two others who might have a say in the outcome are Gettin Hitched and Laurel Valley.

Gettin Hitched, trained by Justin Nixon and ridden by Pinto, put two solid efforts back-to-back in July over this surface. She has been rested since finishing sixth in an allowance race at Presque Isle Downs on Aug. 27 and should be fresh and ready off some steady recent works.

Laurel Valley, trained by Scott Fairlie, won her maiden with ease here two starts back and then was third in a $25,000 claiming race at Woodbine on Sept. 22. Carignan will be aboard.

First post for the final days of the meeting is12:30 p.m.