06/15/2006 12:00AM

Halo Steven faces invader from Ontario


CALGARY, Alberta - Saturday's 76th running of the Alberta Derby promises to be the most

competitive renewal in many years, with a field of 11 contesting the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds here at Stampede Park. The highlight of the 47-day stand, which concludes on Sunday, the $125,000 Alberta Derby will run as the ninth and final race on a strong Saturday afternoon program.

Halo Steven, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Jim Coleman Province at Hastings on June 4, drew the rail, and Pedro Alvarado, leading rider at that meet, will fly in to partner the Florida-bred for trainer Terry Jordan.

Bear Character, most recently third in the Marine at Woodbine on May 20, drew post 2, and leading rider Quincy Welch accepts the call from trainer Dale Greenwood.

Both Halo Steven and Bear Character have positional speed. Halo Steven prompted slow early fractions over a surface rated good before drawing off to a handy victory last time, and Bear Character was prominent early in his latest but reportedly bled and faded to third.

Bear Character has impressed with a pair of bullet five-furlong works since arriving from Ontario.

Top Authority, beaten a nose by My Guy in the one-mile Hoofprint on My Heart here May 27, drew post 6 and is a major threat from just off the pace. A California-bred, Top Authority refused to change leads last time over a sloppy surface, and rider Stephan Heiler had difficulty controlling his mount in the run down the backstretch and turning for home. Heiler retains the call from trainer Red Smith.

Mighty Cahill, third to Halo Steven last out and a victim of the slow early fractions in that race, drew post 10 with Vancouver-based Jake Barton retaining the call from trainer Harold Barroby. A Washington-bred, Mighty Cahill has a good late kick and Barton's job will be to fashion a stalking trip from this difficult post.

Local hopefuls Bell n' Gone (post 3, Rickey Walcott) and Teagues Fight (post 5, Ron Blinston) were unable to handle the sloppy footing in the Hoofprint on My Heart and are threats on their best races. Bell n' Gone and Teagues Fight worked five furlongs in 1:00 together here before the first race last Saturday and were noses apart at the wire.

Fever, Ameridar, and Deputy Spy sport decent form but have never handled stakes foes. Longshots Cha Charm and Tejano Trouble round out the field. All contestants carry 121 pounds.