09/03/2004 11:00PM

Importance of Laddie goes beyond short field

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. - While only five 2-year-olds will contest the $45,000 Minnesota Thoroughbred Association Stallion Auction Laddie Stakes at Canterbury Downs on Monday, the outcome of the 6 1/2-furlong race carries horse of the meet implications. Also on Monday, 2-year-old fillies run in the $45,000 MTA Stallion Auction Lassie Stakes, also at 6 1/2 furlongs.

The Laddie Stakes, restricted to runners who are progeny of stallions whose service was sold at the 1999 MTA Stallion Auction, includes three horses owned by Kissoon Thoroughbreds and partners and trained by Mac Robertson: Vasant, Sahab, and Sajjan. Each will run as a separate betting interest.

Vasant may prove the most formidable of the three. A winner of last year's Northern Lights Futurity, Vasant showed a return of his old form when he pressed older rival Crocrock through the stretch in the Minnesota Sprint Championship two weeks ago. Seth Martinez, Robertson's first-call rider, will be aboard Vasant.

Sahab is a steadily improving sort who narrowly bested statebred rivals in a first-level allowance last month. Leading rider Derek Bell has the call on Sahab.

Sajjan will be making his second start of the week after winning a turf allowance on Thursday night. Scott Stevens has the assignment.

Wally's Choice will probably be the favorite in the Laddie Stakes. Bred by Canterbury Park chairman Curtis Sampson and campaigned in partnership with Wally "The Beer Man" McNeil, Wally's Choice has blossomed in his last two starts, first winning the Minnesota Derby while beating stablemate Lt. Sampson and then besting older rivals in the Minnesota Classic Championship.

Martin Escobar rides Wally's Choice, a leading contender for horse of the meet, for trainer Mike Biehler.

Lassie Stakes: Sheso invades

The MTA Lassie Stakes features Nebraska invader Sheso, who has won six of nine career outings. A front-running daughter of Blumin Affair campaigned by Michael Hughes, Sheso has won her last two starts, the Columbus Inaugural in July and the Columbus Breeders' Special Handicap by 10 lengths last month. Scott Stevens rides Sheso for trainer David Anderson.

Shakopee may prove the strongest threat of the six local runners entered in the Lassie. A winner of the Frances Genter Stakes in July, Shakopee forced a rapid pace in the Minnesota Distaff Championship to take a brief lead in midstretch before being caught by an older rival. How rider Martin Escobar times Shakopee's move will be a critical factor Monday.

Nilini and Mrs. Beerman, the one-two finishers in the Minnesota Oaks, are upset possibilities should the pace prove too taxing. Seth Martinez rides Nilini. Iram Diego has the call on Mrs. Beerman.