04/15/2005 12:00AM

'Dakota' back with own kind

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CALGARY, Alberta - Dakota Duke should like the company he faces in Sunday's third race, a maiden special weight for 3-year-olds, after challenging Alberta's top juveniles twice last season at Northlands Park.

Dakota Duke, a Florida-bred son of Stormy Atlantic, was unable to handle the likes of Poor Iggy, arguably the top colt from the local freshman crop, or speedy stablemate Golden Hunt in the Edmonton Juvenile. But Dakota Duke was not disgraced in running third there and then fourth in the Birdcatcher, which was captured by Vancouver invader One Special Hoss.

His connections were asking a lot of Dakota Duke, a colt who lacked the seasoning of his opponents and was a maiden running against winners.

Trainer Greg Tracy, off to a quick start, has not surged to the lead in the standings at this meet by running his stock out of line, and Dakota Duke is much more suitably placed for his seasonal debut.

A string of solid works and the presence of leading rider Quincy Welch add to the appeal of Dakota Duke in the six-furlong sprint which offers a $17,000 purse. Dakota Duke breaks from post 5 in the field of nine.

His main rival is Knight's Covenant, who breaks from post 7 under Rickey Walcott. Knight's Covenant ran well in each of his four starts last season but hooked some tigers, including subsequent stakes winners Forever Rascal and Blinkanhesgone.