11/15/2002 12:00AM

Colondelivery comes in to his own as year winds down

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Horse racing is a serious business, but for Ray and Columbine Crawford, who bred and own Colondelivery, it's more of a hobby than anything. Not that they don't want to make a profit - and they have over the years with the few horses they have raised - it's the fun of the sport that keeps them in the game. Ray also trains their horses, and he has been very patient in his handling of Colondelivery, who should be one of the favorites in the Autumn Leaves allowance Sunday at Hastings.

Colondelivery showed a lot of potential right from the start, and he spent most of this year holding his own, but not winning, against the best 3-year-olds at Hastings. If his last two starts are any indication, though, he could be a force in the handicap division next year. He came from last and missed by a head to a very good Leloup in a $50,000 optional sprint on Sept. 21 and then blew away Bold'n Keen at the same condition in a very fast 1:16.83 for 6 1/2 furlongs Oct. 12.

Crawford had Colondelivery entered for $50,000 on Oct. 27 but decided to scratch him rather than risk losing him.

"When I entered I didn't realize that I had to run for the price, and since he's doing so well now I really didn't want to take the chance," he said. "I've had some decent offers on him, but we're having too much fun with him, so I'm really not interested in selling."

Crawford doesn't attribute the change in Colondelivery to anything more than just maturity. "I took the blinkers off and changed nose-bands, which might have helped, but really he's just grown up now," he said. "We always knew he was fast, and finally he's learning how to relax. It doesn't really have anything to do with what we've done differently."

Colondelivery has never won going 1 1/16 miles but he came very close to beating Premiers winner Shacane going that far in early July, and with his new demeanor he should have a big chance Sunday. Confirmed front-runners Test Drive and Irish Eh are likely to be setting a fast and contested pace, and it should set up quite nicely for Colondelivery. Crawford was fairly confident and didn't complain about drawing post 11.

"It shouldn't hurt him too much," he said. "At least he won't get caught down on the rail behind horses. He also worked extremely well on a sloppy track."

Crawford also said that if Colondelivery ran well Sunday he would probably give him a shot against older horses in the Au Revoir Handicap on closing day.

Effort to boost local foaling

According to the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, British Columbia Division, the foal count in the province has steadily declined since 1998. Through Oct. 31, the numbers of foals registered for 2001 is 463. That is a serious drop compared with the 688 registered in 1998, and while there should be a few more foals registered before the year is over, it's not likely that the total will reach the 564 registered in 2000.

In order to try and stem the tide, Hastings Entertainment Inc. and the CTHS have launched a joint effort to increase the broodmare population in the province.

They are both contributing $50,000 to an incentive program that will reimburse $1,000 to anyone who imports a pregnant mare to the province. The only stipulations are that the mare must foal in British Columbia and then be bred back to a local stallion.

"We recognize the importance of having BC breeders supply the racing product we present to our customers," said Phil Heard, president of Hastings.

"We hope this remuneration will help underwrite the costs of shipping new mares from Ontario, Kentucky, Florida, and California."

Dixie Jacobson, president of the horse society, is hopeful that the stimulus would help rebuild the local broodmare population.

"Local breeders were very reluctant to make long range plans when the track experienced business declines," she said. "Now that the industry appears to have stabilized under the new direction of Hastings Entertainment, I think we are ready to work our way back to where the breeding industry is healthy again."