04/17/2008 12:00AM

Feature turns out to be twin bill


CALGARY, Alberta - A couple of late entries Wednesday morning allowed Stampede Park's racing secretary, Russ Armstrong, to split an optional $40,000 claimer into two divisions on Saturday.

The alternative was just one race with several runners excluded, but Armstrong was able to fashion co-features, and everybody gets to run - a nice bonus this time of year with horsemen anxious get started and bettors offered a decent pair of races to consider.

The two sprints will run as the fifth and seventh on the eight-race card, with Eagle River Man the one to catch in the first race. A 4-year-old gelding, he worked back smartly off a victory in a half-miler here on March 29, and the trainer-rider combo of Stuart Simon and Quincy Welch has been on a roll. Ecton's Gem and Beau Brass will be closing late, but it appears that Welch, who breaks Eagle River Man from the advantageous inside post, will be able to control the pace in the field of seven older runners.

In the seventh race, Blue Storm will be making just his sixth start and first of the year. A 5-year-old from Red Smith's shed row, he has won three races and has begun two campaigns with a victory. He missed all of 2006 and made just two starts last year - winning them both. Jake Barton will be aboard Blue Storm, whose first time out has been his best in 2005 and 2007 and may well be again.