09/22/2010 3:14PM

B.C. Derby far more wide open than Oaks

Four-Footed Fotos
Dearest Princess wins the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – There is a big contrast between the Grade 3, $150,000 British Columbia Derby at Hastings on Sunday and Saturday’s $75,000 B.C. Oaks.

The 1 1/8-mile derby has a field of 11 3-year-olds who have combined to win a total of three stakes, and none of the entrants has won more than a single added-money event. Compare that to the Oaks, where Dearest Princess and Notoriously have been the leaders at their respective tracks, with three stakes wins apiece

Notoriously has particularly dominated the 3-year-old filly division at Northlands Park where she has won her last two races by a combined total of 14 1/2 lengths. Dearest Princess has had her hands full with Otero and Wando Woman but has still managed to win three in a row at Hastings. Dearest Princess also finished fourth in the Washington Oaks behind Zenovit, who she will have to deal with again on Saturday. Otero and Wando Woman, both stakes winners will also be in the nine-horse field

The derby shapes up as a good betting race with no standout. Usually there is a horse shipping in from another jurisdiction that makes it tough on the local 3-year-olds. Last year Winning Machine shipped up from Emerald Downs to beat Monmouth-based Jersey Town. Noosa Beach, also from Emerald, finished third and went on to become the top older horse at Emerald winning five stakes this year, including the Grade 3 Longacres Mile.

This year, the only shipper is Distorted Dave, and he probably won’t be favored. Trained by John Sadler, Distorted Dave is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands, but he finished more than 13 lengths behind the winner, No Hesitation.

Distorted Dave’s lack of speed could be an asset in a race where the leaders will likely be winging it early. He also looked pretty sharp working four furlongs in 46.40 seconds here Wednesday morning with jockey Pedro Alvarado aboard.

By default, and mostly because Russell Baze will be riding, Cherokee Notion is the likely public choice. Baze will also ride Too Much Dirt in the 1 1/16-mile Ascot Graduation for 2-year-olds and Distorted Glamour in the 6 1/2-furlong Derby Bar and Grill Express for 3-year-olds and up.

Charterhill has the look of a horse with a bright future, and he appears to be peaking at the right time for trainer Craig MacPherson. Charterhill has improved dramatically in his last three starts, winning two sprints and then running a huge race to finish second behind 2009 Grade 3 Canadian Derby winner Tommy Danzigger when he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time in a $50,000 optional claiming race Sept. 11.

In both of his sprints, Charterhill set fast fractions, and MacPherson is concerned he might not settle in his first trip going around three turns. Charterhill looked pretty comfortable stalking in the Canadian Derby, however, and he held on well to finish second behind a 4-year-old with graded stakes credentials.

“I was very pleased with his first route, especially considering he was facing a pretty tough group of older horses,” said MacPherson.

Charterhill is coming back in just two weeks. MacPherson would have preferred to run Charterhill against 3-year-olds in the Richmond Derby Trial on Sept. 6 rather than in the optional claiming race, but he missed the nomination.

“Ideally, and it was my own fault, it would have been better to be bringing him back in three weeks,” said MacPherson. “It worked out well, though. He rated nicely, and the race didn’t knock him out. There is going to be a fast pace and he should be able to sit just off of it.”

Trainer Dino Condilenios has entered three horses. Of the three, he likes Crew Leader over Ain and Smart Spending. All three were formerly owned by Darley Stable and were part of a package of horses bought from Darley by Swift Thoroughbreds Inc.

Crew Leader got stopped cold while making a strong move late move in the Richmond Derby Trial in his last start and finished eighth.

Smart Spending has started only once, but he was an impressive winner when he debuted going 6 1/2 furlongs in a $20,000 maiden race Sept. 10. Being a half-brother to winner Lawyer Ron, a Grade 1 winner who has earned $2.8 million, he certainly has the pedigree to be a future star. Smart Spending was a last minute entry when an allowance race didn’t fill.

“We also want to make sure there is an honest pace,” said Condilenios. “Both Ain and Crew Leader do their best running late, and we don’t want to see anyone get away with a 48-second half.”

Ain is a maiden, but he finished second behind Saratoga Boot in the Emerald Derby and third to Don’twaitforme and Cherokee Notion in the Richmond Derby Trial. Both Saratoga Boot and Richmond Derby Trial winner Don’twaitforme set moderate fractions in their front-running wins.

* Don’twaitforme and Saratoga Boot were late defections from the BC Derby, changing the complexion of the race. According to their trainers, both horses are fighting a foot abscess. Tim McCanna actually entered Saratoga Boot but pulled him out of the race when the problem was discovered Wednesday morning.