07/30/2009 12:00AM

El Cugat sharp invader at Northlands


Hastings invader El Cugat looks like the one to beat in the $50,000 Count Lathum Handicap for 3-year-olds at Northlands Park on Saturday. The 1 1/16-mile Count Lathum drew six horses and goes as the eighth race. It is the final prep for the $300,000 Canadian Derby on Aug. 22.

El Cugat has won 5 of his last 6 starts, including the Oregon Derby, and he is undefeated in races at one mile or over. In his most recent start he nosed out Senor Rojo in the $50,000 Chris Loseth Stakes at Hastings July 1. Senor Rojo came back to beat a solid allowance field that included Pop Artist, who finished second in the Western Canada Handicap at Northlands on July 1.

According his trainer, Alan May, El Cugat has adjusted well to his new surroundings.

"He really likes the track here," said May. "He's a real professional and he is training extremely well right now."

El Cugat will break from the rail with Mario Gutierrez in the irons.

Robo Willie and Cool Diablo head the local contingent.

Trained by Greg Tracy, Robo Willie will carry high weight of 124 pounds. He has won two stakes races in a row and in his latest edged Cool Diablo in the one-mile Ky Alta Handicap on July 11. Robo Willie has good speed and could be tough to catch if he is allowed to set moderate fractions. Rickey Walcott retains the mount.

Cool Diablo, trained by Cody Anderson, is a very sharp horse right now. He easily won a one-mile $32,000 optional race on June 28, and in the Ky Alta he made a strong late move but couldn't quite catch Robo Willie. Real Simard rides Cool Diablo.