04/26/2013 2:27PM

Hastings: Commander may be tested in George Royal Stakes

Four-Footed Fotos
Commander cuts back to 6 1/2 furlongs for Sunday's George Royal Stakes.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Commander, who didn’t lose a race in Western Canada last year, will make his seasonal debut in the $50,000 George Royal Stakes at Hastings on Sunday. The 6 1/2-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up drew seven horses and headlines a strong eight-race card.

Commander closed his 2013 Canadian campaign with a win going 1 3/8 miles in the Grade 3, $100,000 Premiers before going unplaced in the Grade 2, $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon. There isn’t much doubt he wants more distance, but he won going six furlongs in the $50,000 Journal at Northlands Park last June and may have tipped his hand when he worked a bullet four furlongs in 46.20 seconds with exercise rider Sean Evans aboard last Sunday.

Trainer Troy Taylor is pleased with how Commander is training, but thinks he could be vulnerable sprinting.

“He was just much the best when he won at Northlands, and there are some nice horses in the George Royal,” Taylor said. “He’s doing extremely well, though, and he does like to win.”

Aaron Gryder rides Commander.

Taylor also entered Devil in Disguise, and though they are both owned by North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, they are not coupled in the wagering.

Devil in Disguise won three stakes as a 3-year-old, but finished a disappointing third as the heavy favorite in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands and second in the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby. Taylor is high on the 4-year-old son of Smarty Jones, but he will be facing older horses for the first time, and it is a bit of a tell that Gryder is riding Commander.

Scott Williams rides Devil in Disguise.

Shrug could be the winner.

Trained by Dino Condilenios, Shrug is coming off two solid efforts in stakes races at Golden Gate. In his most recent race, he finished third in the $50,000 Albany on Feb. 18. He won the $93,000 Green Flash Handicap on turf at Del Mar, and the only knock on Shrug is that he hasn’t won on dirt or raced on a bullring.

Clear the Runway won the Jim Coleman Province here last year and is coming off a narrow loss to Western Pirate in a key conditional allowance race at Sunland Park on Feb. 9.

Senor Rojo rallied to win a $40,000 optional-claiming sprint on opening day.

Unquiet was a front-running winner of a conditional allowance race in his first try on turf at Turf Paradise on March 25.

Wilo Kat completes the field.