06/13/2001 11:00PM

Grooms Derby can upset


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Make Contact figures to be a heavy favorite over seven other fillies and mares in the $35,000 Brighouse Belles at Hastings Park on Saturday afternoon. The 1 1/16-miles feature also attracted last year's British Columbia Oaks winner, Grooms Derby.

Make Contact has completely dominated her rivals in both of her races at 6 1/2 furlongs this year. She was sent off as the third choice behind Grooms Derby and Always a Dixie in an allowance race April 21 but she made an eye-catching move to take command around the stretch turn and drew off without any urging to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Always a Dixie.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Time to Explode, Make Contact followed that up with another easy win in the Strawberry Morn Stakes on May 12, where she came through on the rail to beat a drifting-out Grooms Derby by 2 1/4 lengths. Although her two races have been overpowering, her rivals might take hope in that she worked a very slow five furlongs, in 1:04.40, on June 12.

"No, I don't think that they should get too excited about that," said Teri Forster, who is assistant trainer to her husband, Dave. "She's not much of a work horse, and we gave her a good work in company a few days before that. She's training perfectly, and I don't see why she won't run her usual race."

David Wilson is scheduled to ride.

Grooms Derby hasn't beaten Make Contact since she won last year's B.C. Oaks, but she could be coming up to her best race of the year and looks like the only horse capable of pulling off an upset. She ran an improved race in the Strawberry Morn and then easily handled an allowance field of fillies and mares sprinting on May 26.

Starting from post 1, Grooms Derby shouldn't have much trouble making the lead, and she might have a fitness edge over Make Contact, who hasn't raced since May 12. Michael Turner trains Grooms Derby, and he has named Pedro Alvarado to ride.