10/14/2001 11:00PM

Best of the West, Fancy As must seek new horizons

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Fancy As, a $3,200 yearling purchase, staked his claim to the Sovereign Award for the best 3-year-old in Canada with a convincing win over Lord Nelson in the Grade 3, 1 3/8-mile Premier's Stakes at Hastings Park on Sunday.

A Manitoba-bred gelding with an obscure pedigree, Fancy As will likely receive all of the Western votes for the Sovereign Award. He won the Canadian and B.C. Derbies and followed up with his impressive win over older horses in the Premier's.

Win City has the best record in eastern Canada, but most of his wins came in restricted races and he finished a well-beaten third when he faced older horses in the Durham Cup.

Fancy As's trainer, Red Smith, owns the horse with his wife, Linda. Smith is contemplating his options, one of which is a trip back east to run against Win City. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do with him," said Smith. "We were offered $300,000 [U.S.] two days ago, but my wife turned it down. If he hadn't won I guess I would have had to shoot her," he said with a laugh. "They phoned from Toronto and they want us to go back there to run against Win City. But it's pretty expensive and that's a long way to go."

Fancy As came out of the race in great shape and was bouncing around the shed row Monday morning, but there aren't any races left for him in Western Canada. Smith, who lives in Alberta, could turn Fancy As out and bring him back to race there next year. But with his record of 13 wins from 15 starts, Fancy As would have to cary a lot of weight if he remained in Alberta. "We're going to have to sit down and figure it out in the next few days," Smith said.

Smith was quick to give credit to Fancy As's groom Caterina Ferretos, who had supervised his training at Hastings Park after Smith went back to Alberta following the B.C Derby.

For a brief moment it looked like Fancy As might not win the Premier's. His jockey, Richard Hamel, asked Fancy As for some speed leaving the starting gate and he was lapped onto Lord Nelson for the first six furlongs. When Colonial Secretary joined them heading down the backstretch, Fancy As dropped back a couple of lengths, and it appeared that the other two were running away from him.

"I was actually glad that Colonial Secretary made his move when he did," said Hamel. "My horse had been on the bit the whole way and when Colonial Secretary came up it allowed him to relax a bit. It took a while to get him going again but when he hit the head of the lane he started firing real good. I knew then that he was going to be tough to beat."

Trainer Dino Condilenios had Lord Nelson ready for a big effort and after leading for most of the way he held on well to finish second. "He ran a great race," said his jockey Frank Fuentes. "He was hooked every step of the way and never gave up. The first time around Fancy As is breathing down his neck and I was thinking that's not very good. When Fancy As dropped back I felt a little better but then Colonial Secretary put a lot of pressure on him. He might have been tougher down the lane if the track had been fast."

Fancy As earned $60,000 in the Premier's, bring his total to $548,000.

* No Time Flat ($10.70) took to the slightly off surface for a mild upset in the $95,485, 1 1/16-mile Ascot Graduation. No Time Flat, who is trained by Terry Marshall, was making his first start since finishing up the track as the favorite in the Jack Diamond Futurity. "We put an Australian bit on him this time and that made a big difference," said assistant trainer Ron Jewell. "Plus he always figured to be a better horse going a middle distance."