07/13/2006 12:00AM

Distinct Vision goes the easy way


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - If Scott Lake wanted to be audacious, he might have entered Distinct Vision in the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel - the horse would not be overmatched. But Distinct Vision has a much easier spot, and figures to be one of the evening's shortest prices when he starts in the $50,000 Claiming Crown Iron Horse, the first of seven Claiming Crown races at Canterbury Park on Saturday.

For Lake, the Iron Horse offers the chance to break a three-year Claiming Crown losing streak. Lake, the leading trainer in Claiming Crown history, has horses for four races.

, meanwhile, is on something like his fourth life. His career began in Louisiana in 2002, but trainer Mike Pino claimed him at Fair Grounds, took him East, and won six races before losing the horse.

Distinct Vision, a winner in 17 of 43 starts, also has been claimed by owner Mike Gill and trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., but when he wound up with Lake in December 2005, Distinct Vision had lost two consecutive races by a combined 90 lengths. He made only two starts that winter before going on the shelf for about a year.

Which is when things get really interesting. Lake was serving a suspension when Distinct Vision made his comeback, finishing last of 10 in an Aqueduct $20,000 claimer in February. Then, Distinct Vision was scratched at the gate in another start - Lake said he had suffered a minor scrape - which gave a sharp claiming trainer options.

"That kind of opened the door for us to run him wherever we wanted," Lake said.

How about a $7,500 claimer? That was the claiming tag for which Distinct Vision ran on March 5 at Aqueduct, a price that made him eligible for the Iron Horse. Distinct Vision won that day - and has won six more starter-allowance races by a combined 39 lengths since.

"That first win picked his head up, and he's been good ever since," Lake said.

Distinct Vision was one of two horses Lake started here in Claiming Crown preps, the other being Funny Woman, who won a $16,000 starter allowance at odds of 1-10. Funny Woman goes in the $50,000 Glass Slipper, a six-furlong sprint, and though she has only five rivals, one of them is formidable: Da Svedonya, who came in from Southern California for trainer Gary Stute and won consecutive allowance races earlier in the year, and last ran in a stakes.

Emerald: A handicapper's toughest test

The $100,000 Emerald, at 1 1/16 miles on turf, may be the evening's most difficult race to figure, with 10 horses and no clear favorite. Installed as the 4-1 choice was Al's Dearly Bred, a locally based 9-year-old who has won twice since returning from a layoff of more than a year.

Claimed out of his comeback race by trainer Marv Johnson, Al's Dearly Bred also won a third-level turf allowance open to $35,000 claimers here July 2. Johnson called the performance "impressive," but said he wished Al's Dearly Bred had another week to recover from that effort.

Al's Dearly Bred is well drawn in post 4, and right inside him is Dr. Detroit, who won a third-level allowance race three starts ago, was in much too tough two back in the Grade 2 Dixie, and most recently was a close fourth facing high-end turf allowance horses and $50,000 claimers at Pimlico. Ryan Fogelsonger is in to ride for Marlyand-based trainer Ann Merryman.

Bodgiteer, second of 11 in a $26,000 handicap last out on the Colonial Downs grass, also appears to be a contender, as does Entry Point, the only starter on the card for California-based trainer Jeff Mullins.

Tiara: Strong Faith has plusses and a minus

The $100,000 Tiara looks nearly as tough as the Emerald, but here, handicappers should at least be able to hang their hat on a fast pace. At least three of the 10 fillies and mares in here are front-runners, and there is pace-pressing speed to further force the issue. But Strong Faith, the likely favorite and the horse who could best take advantage of a taxing pace, has drawn poorly in post 10.

"That's a concern," said trainer John Martin, "but with all the speed, she should be able to filter down and get where she needs to be."

Strong Faith was claimed for $32,000 in January and has won three times since, most recently scoring a narrow victory in the $69,000 Hillsboro Stakes at Bay Meadows.

"I think it was just a real timely claim with her," Martin said. "She was getting good when we took her."

Rapid Transit: Crafty Schemer one to beat

The $75,000 Rapid Transit has a field of seven, but the six-furlong race looks like Crafty Schemer's to lose. Crafty Schemer hasn't won since March 2, but faced graded-stakes sprinters in 2 of his 3 starts since then, and most recently was a close second in a quickly run high-end allowance race at Delaware Park.

"That was a month ago, so he should be fine now," said trainer Benny Feliciano.

Crafty Schemer was claimed for $16,000 earlier this year, and came on strongly for Feliciano. "If you look back, he really took to sprinting," Feliciano said.

Iron Rogue, Edgerrin, and the Lake-trained Must Win Soon also could factor.

* The $50,000 Express drew the largest Claiming Crown field, with 13 horses going six furlongs.