10/14/2001 11:00PM

Fit horse or dropdown? Your choice

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - As the Hastings Park meet winds down, handicappers will be faced often with sorting out horses taking substantial drops running against horses coming off sharp wins and moving up in class. A perfect example is the sixth race on Wednesday's card, a $25,000 sprint for 3-year-olds that drew six horses.

Captain Des showed a lot of potential early in the meet with a sharp win going 6 1/2 furlongs against straight maidens in his initial start of the year and also in a 2 1/4-length victory in a $50,000 optional race at 1 1/16 miles.

That earned him a shot against stakes horses in the Burnaby. But he was rank early in that race, and after forcing the issue four wide, was eased. After mid-pack finishes in the Province and Stallion Stakes, Captain Des finished a distant seventh in the Richmond Derby Trial, and was then dropped into a $50,000 optional sprint Sept. 29. He finished a decent third to Hoodoo Peak.

His claiming price is cut in half here, and while it might look like a fire sale, realistically, he must face older horses next year, and his Beyer Speed Figures indicate that he will not beat $25,000 claimers - unless he improves significantly as a 4-year-old.

So, in this case, the drop makes sense, and with ample speed to chase he appears the one to beat.

But then, trainer Steve Bryant has entered a sharp Double Time, a fit horse who has won two of his last three starts. Sandwiched between wins was a loss by a head in a $25,000 sprint Sept. 19 to his entrymate, Lord Sandringham.

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