10/11/2001 11:00PM

Diglett has chance to make amends


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - After closing out his 2-year-old season last year with an impressive win in the Ascot Graduation and the title of champion 2-year-old in British Columbia, Diglett faced great expectations heading into his 3-year-old year. While he has won two stakes and has earned more than $100,000, his trainer, Gary Demorest, considers Diglett's 2001 season "a little disappointing."

Demorest had geared Diglett's campaign toward two races, the Emerald Downs Breeders' Cup Derby and the B.C. Derby. Diglett went into the Emerald Derby off of a 6 1/4-length win in the Washington Owners Handicap and was sent off as the 6-5 favorite. But after moving up to engage the leaders going into the stretch turn, he hung and finished fourth. In the B.C. Derby he ran into a buzzsaw named Fancy As and checked in a non-threatening third.

Demorest hasn't given up on Diglett, though, and thinks that he has a shot at upsetting Fancy As in the $100,000 Premier's Stakes on Sunday.

"I think he ran well in both the Emerald and B.C. derbies, but he just had too much to do," said Demorest.

In the Emerald Derby, Diglett was close to a very quick pace, but in the B.C. Derby he came from 11th and had to go five wide on the stretch turn.

"He got hit a couple of times leaving the starting gate, and that may have compromised his position," said Demorest of Diglett's trip in the B.C. Derby. "He might have been a little bit closer with a better start. It certainly didn't help."

Like everyone else who saw the B.C. Derby, Demorest was impressed with the move Fancy As made as he drew away from the rest of the field. But he wasn't about to concede the Premier's to Fancy As.

"[Fancy As] is a pretty nice horse, but the hope is that with seven horses and more distance it will benefit our horse," said Demorest. "He acts like he wants to go the 1 3/8 miles [of the Premier's], and he came out of the derby in good shape."

The horse to catch in the Premer's is Lord Nelson. A late-developing 4-year-old, Lord Nelson showed promise with three wins last year but he didn't win his first stakes until he captured the Hong Kong Jockey Club on July 21. He followed that up with two easy front-running wins, in the B.C. Cup Classic and the S.W. Randall Plate.

Sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the Sir Winston Churchill, his last race, Lord Nelson hooked up with King Jeremy early and couldn't hold off Colonial Secretary's late charge. "I wasn't too disappointed with his race in the Churchill," said trainer Dino Condilenios. "I gave him almost a week and a half off after the Randall, and because he won it so easily he probably didn't get a lot out of it."

Condilenios has tightened the screws for the Premier's, and he sent out Lord Nelson for an exceptional six-furlong work in 1:11.20 Oct. 5.

"He came out of his work in great shape and he's been galloping close to two miles every day," said Condilenios. "He always finishes up his gallops strongly and I don't think he should have too much trouble going this far."

Obviously the key to the race for Lord Nelson is how fast they go early. If he gets a clear lead while setting moderate fractions he'll be tough to get by.

Full Gainer goes long

Also on Sunday, Full Gainer is likely to be favored over nine other 2-year-olds in the $125,000 Ascot Graduation.

Full Gainer is trained by Terry Jordan and has won both of his starts, but he hasn't raced since his win in the 6 1/2-furlong New Westminster Stakes on Aug. 19.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do," said assistant trainer Pete Gregory. "He gets a lot out of his galloping and we're not too worried about him being ready off the layoff. He's very competitive and tends to keep himself fit."

The Ascot Graduation is the first chance for 2-year-old males to go 1 1/16 miles. Three fillies are in the field, Philosophers Stone, Haunting You, and Lady Vye, and they all were supplemented to the race for $5,000. Lady Vye and Philosophers Stone finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy Stakes.

"I think the fillies are the ones to beat," said Gregory. "They've already gone this far and that should give them a bit of an advantage."