04/29/2004 11:00PM

Can king be toppled?

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - For the past three years, Lord Nelson has dominated the older colts and geldings ranks at Hastings. With the sensational Roscoe Pito joining the older handicap division, Lord Nelson could have his hands full holding onto the title.

They face each other for the first time Sunday in the George Royal Stakes and while the 6 1/2-furlong race shouldn't have a big impact on who takes home the championship trophy at the end of the year, it likely will give an indication of how they stack up against each other.

Lord Nelson has been trained by Dino Condilenios throughout his career and last year's leading trainer has done an excellent job of holding Lord Nelson together while fighting recurring problems with his feet. Right now the feet are good, and Condilenios said he is very pleased with the way the 7-year-old Lord Nelson is coming up to Sunday's race. He was particularly happy with with Lord Nelson's last work, a very fast half-mile in 46.20 seconds with his usual rider, Frank Fuentes, aboard Monday morning.

"I had Frank work him fast on purpose," Condilenios said. "I wanted to put him on his toes."

Lord Nelson has been all but unbeatable at a middle distance at Hastings, but hasn't won sprinting since April 2002.

"He can sprint," Condilenios said. "If that's all we wanted to do, I'm sure he would be the best sprinter on the grounds. He's doing really good right now, and I think he'll be very tough on Sunday."

When analyzing the George Royal, Condilenios said strategy will play a big role in the outcome.

"It's a riders' race," he said. "I'll let Frank decide what to do. If Commodore Craig and Roscoe Pito hook up early, he can sit just off of them. If both of them don't go, he might be the one in front. The good thing about him is he's versatile, and he'll do whatever Frank asks."

Roscoe Pito hasn't yet proven that he's as versatile as Lord Nelson, but he hasn't had to do so. They let him set moderate fractions in his wins in the Emerald and B.C. derbies, and he wasn't under much pressure early when he led every step of the way while beating older horses in the 1 3/8-mile Premiers. He drew the rail, which means he will likely be on the lead Sunday, but with Commodore Craig in the field, the pace figures to be very lively.

"I'm not worried about his post," trainer John Snow said. "And I won't be giving Sam [Krasner] any instructions. But if he breaks sharply I'm pretty sure he'll be part of the pace."

Snow gave Krasner a lot of credit for Roscoe Pito's development but due to an injury Krasner could only watch while Pedro Alvarado guided Roscoe Pito to wins in the two most important races in British Columbia last year.

"It's hard to take Pedro off, but it wouldn't be fair to Sam to lose the mount due to an injury," Snow said. "Pedro understands, and he handled the situation with total class."

Snow wasn't only looking at Sunday's race from a trainer's perspective, but also as a racing fan.

"I think it's a terrific race," he said. "You have a sprint specialist like Bold 'n Keen, who should be very tough with a race under him, and Lord Nelson is so classy that you know he's going to try. Plus my horse is very sharp so it should be very exciting to watch."

Hall of Fame trainer dies at 92

Trainer Thomas Wallace Dunn, 92, whose brother, Wilson, bred George Royal, died recently. He was a member of the B.C. Racing Hall of Fame and horses trained by him won prestigious races such as the Kentucky Oaks and the Blue Grass Stakes.

He also trained Colorado King, who was one of the best horses in California in the mid 1960's. The South African-bred Colorado King won the Hollywood Gold Cup, Sunset Handicap, and equaled a world record for 1 1/8 miles in the American Handicap at Hollywood Park.