04/23/2004 12:00AM

Defeating Bates no easy task


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - It could be difficult to get past Bates in the ninth race at Hastings, a six-furlong, $32,000 optional race that drew a full field of 10 plus two also-eligibles.

A 6-year-old gelding, Bates is one tough customer. He's capable of running hooked every step of the way, and the big difference between him and the other contenders in the field is that he's proven himself against very classy older horses.

There's nothing wrong with a horse like 4-year-old Favour for Joey. After all, he's won three races from seven starts and has never been worse than third. But this will be his first try against older horses, and it figures to be a stern test.

Bates won four races last year. He started off 2003 with a second-place finish to Buckeye Bates in a $20,000 claiming race. He was claimed for $15,000 in July by his current connections, owner Last Call Racing Stable and trainer Brent Bremner. After running up the track for $20,000 in his first start for Bremner, he reeled off three straight wins and then ran fifth to Buckeye Bates in a $25,000 optional starter race in his final start of the year.

Bates drew post 3 for Sunday, and jockey Robert Skelly figures to have him in the race early.

There is an abundance of speed in the race and it could set up nicely for Devil in the Sky, who has been first or second in seven of his eight sprints. He came from fifth to beat Kompressor Jack, also entered here, in a $50,000 optional race last August, and if jockey Nicola Wright can get Devil in the Sky to settle early, he could be dangerous late. He's trained by Larry Grieve.