06/10/2011 1:08PM

Hastings: Too Much Dirt gets ground he wants

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – There are no stakes races on Sunday’s card at Hastings, but a couple of first-level, $50,000 optional claiming races for 3-year-olds are worth a closer look.

The third race drew six colts and geldings going 1 1/16 miles, and Ascot Graduation winner Too Much Dirt could end up being a modest favorite. Too Much Dirt is trained by Craig MacPherson who also trains Belle of Evangeline, the possible favorite in the seventh race for 3-year-old fillies.

Too Much Dirt will appreciate the chance to stretch out to a middle distance. As a 2-year-old, he came from well off the pace to win the 1 1/16-mile Ascot Graduation with Russell Baze aboard. Baze came back to ride Too Much Dirt in the $100,000 Jack Diamond Futurity, but couldn’t get him up in time in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint. Too Much Dirt was turned out for the winter following his second-place finish in the Futurity, and he ran an even fourth in a $75,000 optional claimer going 6 1/2 furlongs in his only start this year.

MacPherson likes the way he is coming up to his first route this season.

“No, I didn’t ask Baze to come up and ride him,” MacPherson said. “Seriously, he is doing well and we’ve only ran him once this year because he doesn’t want to sprint, so what was the point. We’re not sure how he’ll make the transition from 2 to 3, but this will be a good spot to find out.”

Richard Hamel rides Too Much Dirt.

Trainer Toni Cloutier is hoping Stormy Canuck will reach his full potential running without blinkers for the first time. Stormy Canuck showed a lot of potential in his first two starts as a 2-year-old. He won a maiden special weight race in his debut and then forced a lively pace before giving it up late to finish second in the Ascot Graduation. He closed out the year with a disappointing effort in the Jack Diamond Futurity, finishing sixth as the favorite.

Stormy Canuck is coming off of a big effort in the same race Too Much Dirt exits. Setting quick fractions, he held on well to finish second behind Avulsion. He has had two sharp interim works, both without blinkers.

“We want to see if he’ll relax a lot more without wearing blinkers,” Cloutier said. “He is coming along nicely, and the big deal is if he can settle or not. If he falls asleep, that would be great.”

Cloutier also mentioned his breeding. He is a full brother to $238,000 multiple stakes winner Shelby Madison, who could carry her speed 1 1/8 miles.

Camino might be worth a look at what should be a decent price in the seventh race. All seven horses entered will be stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time, and Camino has the pedigree to get a middle distance.

She also is coming off of a better-than-it-looks performance in the $50,000 Emerald Downs Handicap here June 4. Leaving from post 1, Camino ducked in soon after the start and jockey Amadeo Perez had to grab a hold of her or she may have gone right over the rail. She trailed the field early and then started to make a strong move along the rail just past the quarter pole. She couldn’t get through, though, and was forced to steady.

Trained by Jim Brown, Camino is out of Rock Creek Redhead, who won seven races including the 1 1/18-mile Liberation. Brown trained one of her foals, Comic Opera, who won the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy Stakes as a 2-year-old. He is pretty high on Camino, who is a full sister to Comic Opera.

“Did you watch the replay of the Emerald Downs?” he said. “Watch how she gallops out. She should really improve going long. I think she’s a much better horse than Comic Opera.”

Richard Hamel rides Camino for the first time.

Belle Evangeline could be a vulnerable favorite. Belle Evangeline is coming off of a second-place finish behind Burnin’ Britches in a quickly run sprint May 14, but she hasn’t worked since. She is the only horse in the field with success at a middle distance. She led from start to finish when she debuted in a one-mile, $30,000 maiden race on the turf at Fair Grounds on Jan. 17. MacPherson was somewhat conflicted about running Belle Evangeline on Sunday.

“I would have liked a little more time with her,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with her, but she just isn’t on top of her game right now. If she doesn’t show me more by Sunday, I’ll probably scratch her.”

Summer Song heads to Northlands

Summer Song, the champion older mare in British Columbia last year for trainer Troy Taylor, has been shipped to Northlands Park, where she will be trained by Alan May. In 2009, she was the top older mare in Alberta for May. Summer Song finished second as part of a three-horse Glen Todd and Patrick Kinsella owned-entry that ran one-two-three in a $50,000 optional claimer last Sunday. She will probably make her next start in the $50,000 John Patrick on July 9.

The winner, Caged Mistress, won the Oregon Oaks at Portland Meadows last year in March and then cracked a cannon bone when she ran in the Oregon Derby.

“I was a bit surprised she beat Summer Song,” Taylor said. “That was a pretty serious injury, but it seems to be holding together and she seems to be doing fine right now.”

Taylor said Caged Mistress will be pointed to the Vancouver Sun on June 25.