07/31/2010 7:46AM

Chief Counsel's back class stands out in Manitoba Derby

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Chief Counsel, coming off a first-level allowance win at Woodbine in his first start for the prominent team of owner Peter Redekop and trainer Terry Jordan, will be strictly the one to beat in Monday’s $75,000 Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs.

The 1 1/8-mile Manitoba Derby, an open race for 3-year-olds, attracted a field of seven and anchors a strong card which includes the $50,000 Assiniboia Oaks and the $30,000 Graduation Stakes.

Chief Counsel, who had finished fourth in both the Grade 2 Lane’s End at Turfway Park and the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland prior to being purchased privately by his current interests, has been made the even-money choice on the morning line for the Manitoba Derby..

“He was bought with the Western Canada derbies in mind, and this is the first stop,” said Jordan.

Chief Counsel was full value for his 1 1/16-mile win at Woodbine as he prevailed by a nose after a stretch duel with New York shipper Elusive Beat.

“He showed he was very willing,” said Jordan. “I think he’s a legitimate horse.”

While Chief Counsel’s best efforts have come over synthetic surfaces, he ran well on the dirt at Saratoga and Monmouth early in his career.

“He handles the dirt fine,” said Jordan.

Chief Counsel also fared well in the draw as he will begin from the outside post with rider Gary Baze in the irons for the first time.

Stachys, shipping in from Canterbury Downs, could be the chief threat to the favorite under jockey Eddie Martin Jr.

Trained by Michael Biehler, Stachys won his last two starts in Minnesota while racing over one mile on turf in the Dean Kutz Stakes and a mile on dirt in a first-level allowance.

Kind Regards, the other invader in the Manitoba Derby lineup, will be racing beyond six furlongs for the first time.

Claimed for $25,000 at Prairie Meadows on June 19, Kind Regards returned four weeks later with an impressive win under first-level allowance terms for trainer Dan McFarlane. Vicky Baze has the mount.

Heading the local opposition will be Cherokee’s Goal, who was a convincing winner of the 1 1/16-mile Harry Jeffrey in his first start beyond six furlongs.

Trained by Clayton Gray, Cherokee’s Goal had finished second when racing on Lasix for the first time in the six-furlong Golden Boy three weeks earlier. Juan Crawford retains the mount.

Key Largo, beaten 2 1/4 lengths as the runner-up in the Harry Jeffrey, was displaying improvement over his fourth-place finish in the Golden Boy and should be heard from under returning rider Larren Delorme.

Mankato Strike and Mr. Malabar, who finished first and second when competing under first-level allowance terms over one mile on July 17, compete the local contingent.

Oaks: Ruby’s Big Band a horse for the course

Ruby’s Big Band will be seeking her fifth win in six appearances at Assiniboia Downs in the one-mile Assiniboia Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

Based at Canterbury Park with trainer Charlie Smith, Ruby’s Big Band won three stakes in Winnipeg last year before suffering her first defeat in the six-furlong Chantilly this June 18.

After subsequently finishing off the board in a turf stakes in Minnesota, Ruby’s Big Band returned to Winnipeg and prevailed by a nose over Roma Tomato in an open 7 1/2-furlong allowance race which was a prep for the Assiniboia Oaks.

Rohan Singh, who has been Smith’s rider locally in the majority of his successful invasions, retains the mount.

Roma Tomato, trained by Tom Gardipy, will be looking to turn the tables on Ruby’s Big Band.

Honorable Lady, third in that allowance race after defeating Ruby’s Big Band by a half-length in the Chantilly, also is back for the Assiniboia Oaks.

The 10-horse field also includes Canterbury shipper Cell Line Forever; Rime Ice, from Arlington Park; and My Lavern, from Northlands Park.

Graduation: Little Widow Maker challenges males

Little Widow Maker, a convincing winner of the six-furlong Debutante for Smith and Singh on July 16, will be looking to double up when she faces males in the Graduation at the same 5 1/2-furlong distance.

Paris by Night, a smart winner of her only start at Canterbury Park over five furlongs on July 3, and Oren’s Star, who showed speed before fading to finish fourth in the six-furlong Edmonton Juvenile on July 17, also figure to attract support in the field of nine 2-year-olds.

Bud Time also ships in from Edmonton after romping in his 3 1/2-furlong debut in a $12,000 maiden claiming race.

The leading local contenders are Cactus Cat, a sharp winner of his debut at 41/2 furlongs, and Waronthehomefront, who graduated over five furlongs in his second start.