09/18/2009 12:00AM

B.C. Derby shaping up with lively pace

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The Grade 3, $275,000 British Columbia Derby is the premier race at Hastings, and it usually draws the best field of the year. This year is no exception, with horses shipping in from New Jersey and Washington. It looks like a field of 10 or 11 horses will contest the derby, which runs next Sunday.

Locally based Tommy Danzigger, fresh off of a win in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park on Aug. 22, could be the favorite. Trained by Rob Gilker, Tommy Danzigger set a modest pace in the Canadian Derby and then easily held off a late bid by Scorewithcater. He scored a front-running win in the B.C. Cup Stellar's Jay at Hastings in his previous start.

Scorewithcater, trained by Jim Meyaard, is being pointed to the derby, but might not make the race.

"It's 50-50," Meyaard said. "He developed an abscess in one of his feet, and I don't know if I'll be able to get the work into him that he needs this weekend or not."

The pace in the B.C. Derby figures to be fast and contested. Heading the list of potential speed horses is Jersey Town. In his last start over dirt at Monmouth Park, he scored a front-running win in a first-level allowance race on Aug. 2. He was given a 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his 8 1/4-length win, which is the highest in the field. In his latest start, he tried turf for the first time and ran a solid race, finishing second to Boots Ahead in the $65,000 Restoration at Monmouth on Sept. 2. Racing for trainer Barclay Tagg, he started his career at Gulfstream where he won a $25,000 maiden race last March and came back to win a $50,000 starter race at Belmont on May 3. According to Barbara Heads, who will be the trainer of record for the B.C. Derby, Jersey Town was scheduled to arrive at Hastings Friday evening.

"I looked at all of his races on video and I like what I see," said Heads, who won the derby in 2006 with Halo Steven. "He seems pretty game. It didn't matter if he was between, inside, or outside of horses, he still kept trying."

Jersey Town is owned and was bred by Charles Fipke, who has won major races in North America with homebreds like Tale of Ekati and Perfect Soul. Fipke lives in the interior of British Columbia and is close friends with the leading breeder in the province, Russell J. Bennett. Heads is one of Bennett's trainers at Hastings.

"They have been best friends for years," Heads said. "I had a good discussion with Chuck and R.J., and they both thought it would be a good idea to bring the horse out for the derby."

As many as four horses could ship up from Emerald Downs for the race. Heading the pack is Winning Machine, who is coming off of a narrow win over Rooster City in the $75,000 Emerald Derby on Sept. 7.

According to his trainer, Doris Harwood, Winning Machine should be well-suited to running over the smaller track at Hastings.

"He's only about 15 hands but he moves like he's 17 hands," Harwood said. "When I bring him out of his stall, everyone goes, 'Oh.' But don't judge the package by the looks. He is a gutsy little horse, and he is by far the most athletic horse in my barn. He also has a lot of tactical speed, and I know speed does well up there."

Winning Machine's usual rider, Rickey Frazier, won't be making the trip to Hastings. Instead, Gallyn Mitchell will be aboard for the first time.

"He's an easy horse to ride, so it really doesn't matter who gets on him," Harwood said.

Harwood also is looking at the possibility of running Noosa Beach, who is coming off of a second-place finish in the $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap Aug. 2.

"If a race down here doesn't fill for him, I'll run both of them," Hardwood said. "It's a big pot, and it would be nice to get two parts of it."

Rooster City also is expected to run.

"We'll ship him up next Friday with about four or five horses to finish out your meet," trainer Tim McCanna said. "He is just starting to peak. We cut the blinkers back for his last race, and we'll see if taking them off completely will help him get past the last horse."

Trainer Carlos Moreno is bringing up two horses from Emerald. Quinalt, who won the $50,000 Trooper Seven on Sept. 13, will run in the derby. Kruger Park will run in the $50,000 Bar & Grill Express, one of the two supporting stakes races for older horses. Also on the B.C. Derby card is the 1 1/8-mile Sir Winston Churchill.

"Quinalt is really just starting to mature," Moreno said. "He had been shying away from horses, so we put the blinkers on for his last race and he was really focused."

The likely fast pace should help the chances of locally based Ganbei and Gather de Justice.

Ganbei came from well off the pace to beat Gather de Justice by a neck in the Richmond Derby Trial on Sept. 7.

Both horses figure to be longshots against what figures to be a much tougher group, however.

Senor Rojo, who was part of the pace before tiring to finish third in the Derby Trial, also is expected to run.

Almost Time is looking to rebound off of a last-place finish in the Canadian Derby. He finished second to Tommy Danzigger in the B.C. Cup Stellar's Jay in his previous start.