09/29/2004 11:00PM

Flamethrowintexan extends stable's hot streak

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - On paper, it looked like last Sunday's British Columbia Derby was going to be a competitive race. However, it ended up being a walk in the park for Flamethrowintexan, who dominated the race and won by a widening 8 1/2 lengths over Lord Samarai.

Flamethrowintexan is owned by Paul and Lori Heist, who race as Grasshopper Stable Inc. and are based at Emerald Downs in Seattle. Considering the successful season the stable is having, it's not that surprising that Flamethrowintexan won so easily. Out of 12 starts, Grasshopper Stable has won 10 races with 2 seconds. That's quite a record, and it includes the second-place finish by Flamethrowintexan, a Florida-bred, in the Emerald Downs Breeders' Cup Derby. And, if you believe in omens, you would have been all in if you had been with the Heists when they flew in from Seattle.

"It was hard to believe, but lodged between two panes of glass in one of the windows of the airplane was a live grasshopper," said Paul Heist. "We felt pretty good when we saw that."

Heist has owned horses since 1986. This has been an exceptional year for him, and he has never won a race with as much prestige as the Grade 3 B.C. Derby. He gives all the credit to a solid team.

"Between Jim Penney, Bryson and Kay Cooper, and Jill Fubulich, I couldn't have a better group of people taking care of the horses," he said. "Kay and Jim really know how to spot horses, and Bryson does an excellent job galloping them. Plus, when they go to the farm, Jill does a great job with them."

Heist is no stranger to Canada, and he named his stable after a beer that is brewed by Big Rock Brewery in Calgary, Alberta. According to Heist, he "drinks gobs of it when heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies." He also said that most of the $192,350 winner's purse from the B.C. Derby will likely get spent on his frequent Canadian ski trips.

Although Flamethrowintexan ran under trainer Kay Cooper's name in the derby, Cooper said that her father, Jim Penney, should get credit for the win.

"I'm really the assistant trainer, but when I nominated him to the race they put him under my name and I just wasn't paying attention," said Cooper. "Actually all of the horses we've shipped to Hastings will be running under my dad's name."

Cooper also said they weren't sure where Flamethrowintexan would start next.

"We're certainly considering the Premier's, but we're not really sure if the wants to go that far," she said of the race's 1 3/8-mile distance. "There are still a few races around that are restricted to 3-year-olds, so we might just look around for now. We sent him to the farm for some R and R, and we'll see how he bounces back before making any decisions."

Rules of War: Good story, bad ending

For Rules of War, the run-up to the B.C. Derby was filled with drama, but the ending was anticlimactic.

When entries were taken for the race last Thursday morning, Rules of War, who won the Richmond Derby Trial and is arguably the best local 3-year-old, didn't have enough earnings to get into the body of the race. After his trainer, Rob Gilker, conferred with the stewards and racing office officials, Gilker was allowed to enter Rules of War in both the derby, where he was the only horse on the also-eligible list, and the Derby Consolation, where he would have been a heavy favorite.

After the overnight came out with Rules of War entered in both races, the stewards received protests from some of the trainers involved in both races. The rules prohibit a horse from being entered in more than one race on the same day unless both are stakes.

After re-evaluating the issue and deciding that the Derby Consolation is not a stakes race, the stewards ruled that they had erred in their initial decision. They then told Gilker that he had to choose one race for Rules of War.

In the meantime, trainer Barb Heads had entered Joyride in the derby but noticed that he had come back from his training a little bit off last Thursday morning. She recommended that Gilker stay in the derby because there was a good chance she was going to have to scratch.

Joyride scratched, and Rules of War got to run - sort of. He stumbled leaving the starting gate and unseated jockey Roberto Ramirez.