09/05/2002 12:00AM

Distance a stretch for 'Sixthirty'

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EDMONTON, Alberta - Saturday's 57th running of the $100,000 Speed to Spare will go without its defending champion, Rancour, who had been looking to this race to salvage this season.

"Something came up this morning," said Rancour's trainer, Ernie Keller, on Thursday, adding that it was not a career-ending injury. "Yesterday, he was just fine."

Though Rancour, Alberta's reigning champion older horse, has not won since the Herald Gold Plate at Stampede Park last spring, it was expected he would be the favorite in the 1 3/8-mile Speed to Spare, in which older horses will carry 126 pounds and Sir Deuce, the only 3-year-old, will carry 120.

Taking the spotlight in Rancour's absence will be Sixthirtyjoe, who has won five stakes races. Sixthirtyjoe has never won beyond 1 1/16 miles, the distance at which he won the Klondike here July 27, but his owner-trainer-breeder Deanne Davies has never bought into the theory that Sixthirtyjoe is not a route runner.

Lending strength to her argument is that Sixthirtyjoe opened up three lengths in the stretch in the Klondike, leaving defending champion Rancour the runner-up.

Sir Deuces has proven his route-running ability in both the 1 5/16-mile Count Lathum, which he won, and the 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby, in which he finished fourth.

Orland Martinez takes over aboard Sir Deuces from Ricky Walcott, who will be looking to guide Bubblegum Kid to his first win of the meet.

Miki Blue Eyes figures to be a major contender after winning the 1 5/16-mile Westerner here Aug. 16. Scotman finished second there, in his best performance since winning the 2000 Canadian Derby.

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