08/29/2003 12:00AM

Ex-claimer Baron's Rank stirs B.C. Derby dreams

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There's just three weeks to go before they spring the latch in the Grade 1, $250,000 British Columbia Derby. Last year the winner of the most prestigious race in the province, Cruising Kat, could have been claimed for $35,000 just two weeks before pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the race.

Owner Jeffrey Sengara, who has had great success claiming such horses as Budroyale and Bluesthestandard in Southern California and turning them into graded stakes winners, is hoping to win the B.C. Derby with Baron's Rank, a horse he claimed for $32,000 Aug. 10. He will make his first start under Sengara's silks in the Richmond Derby Trial this Monday.

Baron's Rank started out his 2003 season with a win over $35,000 claimers April 27, but he hasn't won since. He was beaten 21 lengths when he tried stakes horses in the City of Vancouver in early May, and the best he has done since is a couple of second place finishes for $35,000. One hopeful sign for Sengara and his trainer, Dino Condilenios, is that the only time Baron's Rank went a middle distance he finished second in the race from which they claimed him.

"We claimed him with the derby in mind," said Condilenios. "We think he'll improve going a distance and if he runs well Monday, we'll run him back in the derby."

Condilenios was well aware that Cruising Kat was a claiming horse prior to the derby and that certainly influenced his decision to claim Baron's Rank.

"We think it's worth taking a shot, and basically that's what we're doing," he said. "The derby trial should come up pretty easy with Roscoe Pito going to Emerald and Stratoplan questionable. He's training well and who knows, maybe we'll get lucky."

According to trainer Rob VanOverschot, Stratoplan will not run in the Emerald Downs Derby or the Richmond Derby Trial. He was injured in his stall and missed a work that he would have needed in order to run.

"He's back in training and hopefully he'll be ready for the B.C. Derby," said VanOverschot.

He said Illusive Force has been turned out for the year.

High sale expectations

Dixie Jacobson, president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (B.C. Division), is optimistic about the upcoming CTHS yearling and mixed sale Sept. 9 at the Thunderbird Show Park in Langley.

"I have high expectations for the sale," she said. "It's the strongest catalog we've had in a while, and with the probability of slot machines at Hastings next year there seems to be a lot of added interest. And whenever there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel the sales have gone fairly well. In this case that light seems to be pretty bright."

Dancewithavixen: Oaks or derby?

Owner-trainer Tom Longstaff has decided to accept the 126 pounds assigned to his 3-year-old filly Dancewithavixen for the $50,000 Free Vacation on Monday. Dancewithavixen has dominated the 3-year-old filly division and will be a heavy favorite despite having to pack a hefty load.

"It's the last weighted race of the year, so she can't pick up any more weight," he said. "After this I'll have to decide if I'll run her in the derby or the oaks. She ran faster than the boys did on B.C. Cup Day, so if nothing ships in we just might go in the derby. I won't make up my mind until I see who's nominated."

* Emma Abbott, who turned 18 in April, closed out her short career at Hastings in style, winning with two of her last three mounts. Abbott has decided to continue her career back home in Britain. She had won with 13 of her first 96 mounts at Hastings and appeared to be on her way to becoming the leading apprentice at Hastings.