08/23/2007 12:00AM

Footprint at top of his game


EDMONTON, Alberta - The locally campaigned Footprint, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, faces his thorniest challenge to date as he seeks to subdue six sharp rivals in Saturday's $300,000 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park. The field for the 1 3/8-mile race includes the top three finishers from the Alberta Derby at Stampede Park as well as the top two from the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs.

Footprint was the surprise second-place finisher in the Alberta Derby at odds just shy of 18-1 back on Juneo16, and he has recently rounded into exceptional form, handling his local rivals with such authority that only one elected to face him again here.

Continuing his campaign at Northlands after the Alberta Derby, Footprint finished second sprinting in the Western Canada. But when asked to stretch out to a mile in the Ky Alta, Footprint seemed to become a different kind of horse as he led throughout to win by 5 1/2 lengths.

In his latest effort, Footprint showed versatility by stalking the pace early before making a bid that carried him to victory by 7 1/4 lengths in the $75,000 Count Lathum.

Some may argue that Footprint took advantage of weak rivals, but his credentials are confirmed by Beyer Speed Figures of 92 and 95 in his last two races, the best two of any horse in the derby.

Footprint's principal foe is expected to be Weather Warning, the 34-1 upset winner of the Manitoba Derby on Aug. 6. The remainder of the field comprises Ookashada, a dominant player at Hastings and the third-place finisher in the Alberta Derby; Greenwood Meadow, the second-place finisher in the Count Lathum; Alberta Derby winner Amazin Blue; Rage Till Dawn, who closed nicely to grab the place position in the Manitoba Derby; and Gandolf, a maiden who last started at Del Mar.

Weather Warning, a regally bred son of Storm Cat out of a graded-stakes-winning mare, charged through blistering fractions and was never tested as he rolled to a four-length victory in the Manitoba Derby. If left unchallenged on the front end, he could once again prove difficult to catch.