06/22/2005 11:00PM

Distance gives edge to 'Grande'

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The feature race at Hastings Saturday drew five horses, but it really boils down to a battle between Nineleventurbo and Lethal Grande. Coeur Joie, Victory Light, and Orphan Child would all have to improve dramatically to contend with the top two in the $50,000 optional race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.

Lethal Grande finished behind Nineleventurbo in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint April 30 at the same level as Saturday's race, but Lethal Grande is a much better horse going around three turns, and with his good speed he should have the advantage Saturday.

An Oregon-bred gelding, Lethal Grande was an astute claim by trainer Daryl Snow. Snow haltered Lethal Grande for $15,000 last August and since then the horse has won five races and more than $75,000. In his last start, Lethal Grande scored a very impressive win over Steady Smiler in a $65,000 optional route May 23.

Lethal Grande worked a strong five furlongs June 12, and unless Coeur Joie shows some of the speed he displayed when he won his maiden April 23, Lethal Grande will have things his own way early. Robert Skelly rides.

Since his win over Lethal Grande, Nineleventurbo finished fourth to Roscoe Pito in an allowance sprint and then sixth to Lord Nelson in the John Longden. Roscoe Pito was the 2003 local horse of the year and Lord Nelson earned that distinction last year. Needless to say, this is a much easier spot.