06/14/2005 11:00PM

Conditions should suit Tantoo

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CALGARY, Alberta - Business was not as brisk as usual at entry time Tuesday morning, but two weeks of steady rain will dampen the spirits of even the most enthusiastic trainers, and racing secretary Barry McGrath had to scramble to put together Friday's program at Stampede Park.

The eight-race card, on the eve of the 75th Alberta Derby, has several short fields, but McGrath was able to match up seven older fillies and mares for the featured seventh race.

More showers are in the forecast for Friday, and Tantoo, a 9-year-old who would relish any type of wet surface, excels at this six-furlong distance.

Tantoo prefers this course to Northlands Park, and retains the services of Quincy Welch, who is running away with the riding title at this meet.

Tantoo caught a muddy surface in her latest and toyed with her three rivals that day, winning under a firm hold from Welch.

A short price seems assured, but Tantoo is up a notch in class, and there is another mare in the race who moves up in the off going.

O Howrude is 4 for 5 on off tracks and has the benefit of a tightener as she makes just her second start at the meet. A 6-year-old, O Howrude should be rolling late, but her best distance is probably a mile, and she will need some contested fractions to set up her late kick.

If Catfish Alley or Serendipity Style can run with Tantoo early - and that prospect is open for debate - then the complexion of the race would change.