11/21/2003 1:00AM

First, you have to find the leader


VANCOUVER, British Colum-bia - It was a struggle, but after three days of hard work the Hastings racing office finally came up with seven races for Sunday's card. The feature race, an $11,000 optional-starter race for 3-year-olds and up, is a rematch between Flying Officer and Your Welcome. The 1 1/16-mile race drew eight horses and goes as the sixth race.

Flying Officer led the whole way to beat Your Welcome by three-quarters of a length in a similar spot last Saturday, and if he can get the lead again he'll be very tough to beat. He also won his previous start Nov. 1.

Although he didn't appear to be a good claim at first, Flying Officer has become one. His owners, Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Leslie, shelled out $20,000 for Flying Officer on Aug. 9. In his first start for the Leslies, Flying Officer ran last in a $35,000 optional sprint. He showed more in his next start, a $20,000 route, and then won going a route for $15,000 on Sept. 14. He lost his next two starts and then won a $6,000 optional route Nov. 1.

Frank Fuentes has been aboard for all of Flying Officer's wins this year and has the call Sunday.

Your Welcome has never won going this far but has placed three times and has the best Beyer Figure at the distance. Your Welcome chased Flying Officer around the track last weekend but couldn't catch him. Your Welcome drew the rail and may be the one in front this time. He also finished second in his previous start, a $15,000 optional race Nov. 1, where he led for most of the way. Alan Cuthbertson rides.

If the top two get carried away up front it could set up for Real Quest, who has closed strongly in his last couple of sprints.