06/07/2002 12:00AM

Brown's approach provides a grassroots success


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Trainer Wilson Brown is a picture of concentration in the mornings as he leads each set to the gap at Canterbury Park. But the steely gaze that lies under his trademark Stetson gives way to a beguiling smile and affable conversation when Brown is asked about his career as a trainer.

A 59-year old native of Jones, Okla., Brown started training rodeo and ranch stock after a stint in the Army, but it wasn't long before Brown was introduced to match racing at a track called Apache Downs.

A gritty runner named Bar Money Steed, who won of 48 of 56 races under Brown's supervision, convinced the young Oklahoman he might have a future in horse racing. In the years that ensued, Brown competed at bush tracks in Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. His first race at a recognized meet came at a track in Holly, Colo.

Having never had the opportunity to work with high-priced stock, Brown has taken an approach to developing racehorse talent that is straightforward and effective. Fans at Canterbury have become accustomed to a watching a string of Brown-trained runners win more than their share of 2-year-old maiden and stakes events year after year.

One of Brown's most legendary charges was Mister Deville, a $7,000 Keeneland weanling purchase who finished third in the Canterbury Park Breeders' Cup Derby two years ago. Mister Deville went on to capture the $307,500 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park later that fall and retired to stud in Oklahoma with career earnings of $375,320.

Brown readily pointed out that It'sallinthechase, his entrant in Sunday's Canterbury Park Breeders' Cup Derby, differs from Mister Deville.

"These horses are totally different," Brown said, "I knew early on that Mister Deville was a fast horse. It'sallinthechase is the kind that improves with some distance."

The trainer also noted that It'sallinthechase had legitimate excuses when he failed to win at Canterbury last season: "We kept drawing the inside, and he'd come second."

But Brown knew he wasn't the only one trainer who knew It'sallinthechase had talent the day after he finished fifth in the Canterbury Juvenile. "Doug Oliver came up to me the next day and said, 'You didn't get outrun, you just ran out of ground.' "

Afleet Buck: Live longshot?

One runner who might go overlooked in the Canterbury Derby is Afleet Buck. Trainer Jim Espy will saddle Afleet Buck, a Bucksplasher colt owned by Irish Acre Farm who was recently transferred from the Mike Dini barn. Dini trains for Irish Acres Farm owner-trainer Noel Hickey who is currently serving out a suspension.

Hickey has had enjoyed success with other sons of Bucksplasher tried over the Canterbury turf in seasons past, including multiple stakes winners Blair's Cove and Plate Dancer.

* After racing was cancelled Thursday night following the sixth race because a heavy electrical storm, wagers on the pick three, pick four, and pick six were paid to tickets correctly selecting races 3 through 6. Turf racing for Friday's card was cancelled as more storms were expected Friday night.