07/31/2002 11:00PM

Can Choktow handle Derby distance?

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SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - Four Alberta ship-ins are among the field of seven for Saturday's $15,000 Saskatchewan Derby, one of the highlights of the Marquis Downs meeting.

The purse for the 1 1/16-mile Saskatchewan Derby was doubled just last weekend to help ensure a large and competitive field, and the move seems to have paid off.

The probable favorite is Choktow, who was an impressive winner of his maiden race by 8 1/2 lengths in the mud at Stampede Park this spring.

Since then, Choktow has been running in conditional allowance races with moderate success, registering two thirds and a fifth in three starts.

Leading rider Serge Rocheleau picks up the mount and has the task of trying to get his mount to stay the distance, which may be a problem, as Choktow faded down the stretch in his lone attempt at a mile.

Monarch Brass also ships in from Alberta, where he was a winner at a mile two starts ago for a $15,000 claiming price.

Last time out, for a $20,000 price, Monarch Brass closed well to miss by a neck going 6 1/2 furlongs. The added distance of the Derby should benefit him the most of all the entrants.

Also arriving from Alberta are Gatopresson and Regal Randy.

Gatopresson ran third in two stakes races here as a 2-year-old and has been continuing the trend with three thirds from six tries in 2002, the last five coming at the $15,000 claiming level. He is a large, gangly colt and should appreciate the added yardage.

Regal Randy is still a maiden but did run a good third in the slop going six furlongs last time out.

Kanha, who began his season in Manitoba, finished second in a one-mile allowance race two weeks ago. He has run 11 times in 2002 and sports three wins, the most recent coming here for a $5,000 price.

The local contingent is led by Good Old Sprite, who defeated Kanha in that recent allowance race. A winner of three of four starts in 2002, Good Old Sprite has placed second in four stakes in his 10-race career.

Good Old Sprite appears to have learned to stalk the pace which should help his chances.

Completing the field is Britts Express, winner of the Western Heritage here last year and most recently third to Good Old Sprite and Kanha when he faded in the final quarter to be beaten almost nine lengths.