09/30/2004 11:00PM

Celt drops to $25,000 claiming

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Celt heads a classy group of sprinters in the Hastings feature race Sunday, a 6 1/2-furlong $25,000 claiming race that drew eight older horses. The speedy Celt figures to attract plenty of support, as does 15-time winner Shoe Fly Willie and Buckeye Bates, who has won 14 of his 24 career starts.

Of course Celt, who is owned and trained by Dino Condilenios, is the one they'll be chasing. A 5-year-old gelding, he was one of the best sprinters in British Columbia in 2003, but he hasn't been quite as good this year, winning just 1 race from 5 starts. This will be his first time at the meet that he will be running against straight claimers, though, and he figures to be tough to catch leaving from post 2.

This is also a considerably easier group than he faced in an allowance race Sept. 12, when he finished seventh. The winner, Shacane, is a multiple stakes winner and he came back to just miss in the Sir Winston Churchill Stakes last weekend. Frank Fuentes rides Celt on Sunday.

Buckeye Bates is as consistent as they come, but he uncharacteristically finished out of the money in his last start, a $32,000 optional race Aug. 14. He was shuffled back during the run down the backstretch before making a strong late move.

Rampoldi has also been a gem of consistency this year. A British Columbia-bred, Rampoldi has 3 wins and 3 seconds from 7 starts at the meet.