10/12/2013 11:26AM

Hastings: Title Contender takes on elders in Premiers

Four Footed Fotos
Title Contender wins the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby at Hastings.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The 2013 Hastings meet ends Monday with a strong eight-race card headed by the Grade 3, $100,000 Premiers Handicap. The 1 3/8-mile Premiers drew a solid field of nine horses and features a matchup between Grade 3 British Columbia Derby winner Title Contender and the first two finishers in last year’s Premiers, Commander and Jebrica.

Title Contender, trained by Anita Bolton, won the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown before being sold privately to Peter Redekop. In his first start for Bolton and Redekop, he was beaten by more than 37 lengths going 1 3/8 miles in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park. The question is whether the dull performance was caused by the distance or the combination of running over a very sloppy track after arriving in Edmonton just days before the race.

Bolton is hoping the same horse that won the B.C. Derby by 4 3/4 lengths shows up in the Premiers, which will be his first start against older horses.

[Premiers Handicap: Get PPs, watch Monday's card live]

“He had a lot of things going against him in Alberta,” Bolton said. “We’re happy with how he is training for the race, and it is just a question of if he can go a mile and three-eighths. He’s certainly training like a horse that will go that far.”

Rico Walcott, who rode him for the first time in the B.C. Derby, retains the mount.

Commander won three straight stakes at Northlands before finishing a disappointing second behind Wilo Kat in the S.W. Randall Plate on Sept. 8. The Troy Taylor-trained 5-year-old should be able to set a moderate pace, though, and last year he was good enough to win the Premiers despite dueling through extremely quick fractions.

“I don’t know what to make of his last race, and even though he was winning in Edmonton, he wasn’t as impressive as he was last year,” Taylor said. “He had a nice work last week, so maybe he’ll run a big race.”

Jebrica ships up from Emerald Downs, where he won the $50,000 Budweiser in June and is coming off a fast-closing third in a one-mile allowance race.

Senor Rojo is coming off a win going 1 3/8 miles over Toccetive in the $100,000 Speed to Spare at Northlands Park on Sept. 2. Toccetive also is entered.

Wilo Kat has never been better and was an impressive winner over Commander in the Randall Plate.