09/05/2007 11:00PM

Few care to take on the champ

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EDMONTON, Alberta - When True Metropolitan took the Westerner Handicap here Aug. 19, he did so in such a manner that the connections of the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers chose not to challenge him again Saturday in the $100,000 Speed to Spare here at Northlands Park. As a result, True Metropolitan faces a rather soft-looking group of four rivals as he seeks to capture his second consecutive title in Saturday's 1 3/8-mile Speed to Spare for 3-year-olds and upward.

True Metropolitan won the 1 1/16-mile Westerner in 1:42.80, just .20 off a track record that has stood since 1984.

And while True Metropolitan had to withstand a vigorous late rally by Teagues Fight, the reason for the added excitement might have been that he was starting to loaf after carrying an easy lead into the stretch. Moreover, True Metropolitan carried co-high weight of 124 pounds in the Westerner, whereas the conditions of the Speed to Spare compel all starters to carry 126.

True Metropolitan, owned by Bob Cheema and trained by Terry Jordan, also won the Westerner and the one-mile Spangled Jimmy here at Northlands in 2006 and is 4 for 4 over the local oval.

True Metropolitan was voted Canada's top older male last year. This year, True Metropolitan won the 6 1/2-furlong George Royal at Hastings and the Grade 3 Dominion Day prior to his victory in the Westerner.

Quincy Welch, who is True Metropolitan's regular rider in Western Canada, retains the mount.

Although they seem to be outmatched, his opponents - Test Boy, Candid Remark, Beau Brass, and Trick of the North - are not without credentials.

Test Boy finished fifth in the Westerner, the first time in nine starts this season that he has failed to light the board. Test Boy has two stakes wins this year, the most recent of which came in the $75,000 Don Fleming on July 28, and has the services of the meet's leading rider, Rickey Walcott.

The 7-year-old Beau Brass won this race in 2004 and 2005, and finished second to True Metropolitan last year.

Real Simard retains the mount on Beau Brass, who defeated Illusive Force in the 2004 Speed to Spare and edged Raylene in 2005.