08/11/2004 11:00PM

Celt will have to be caught

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There's not much doubt that Celt will be the one they'll be chasing early in the eighth race at Hastings on Saturday, a $35,000 optional sprint for 3-year-olds and up that drew a field of eight.

The last time Celt didn't have the lead after the first two calls in any race was Aug. 31, 2002. Since then, he's won six times. Last year he came very close to becoming a stakes winner, finishing second in both the British Columbia Cup Sprint and the Hastings Speed Handicap.

A B.C.-bred gelding, Celt is winless in three starts this year, finishing last in the Hong Kong Jockey Club, fourth to Dancewithavictor in a $50,000 optional sprint June 5, and third to a very tough Metatron in an allowance sprint June 20. There is other speed in the field, but it would be suicidal for any horse to try and run with Celt early. He's owned and trained by Dino Condilenios and will be ridden by Frank Fuentes.

While Celt should appreciate some class relief, this isn't an easy spot and there is more than one sharp horse in the field.

Buckeye Bates has won 14 of his 23 starts and is coming off of a win over $25,000 sprinters July 31. That was his first start since May 30. He should get a perfect stalking trip Saturday from his rail slot.

Trainer Gary Demorest is winning races at a 25 percent clip and he has entered Slew's Carousel and Favour for Joey.