07/25/2002 12:00AM

J V Bennett durable, versatile


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Like Kid Katabatic, J V Bennett is as good as ever at the advanced age of 9. He has won three of his five starts this year and will likely be a solid favorite over four others in the featured race at Hastings Park, a $25,000 sprint for older horses.

It doesn't matter to J V Bennett if he's sprinting or going a middle distance. He has won six of his last eight starts; half of those wins were at Saturday's distance of 6 1/2 furlongs and the other three at 1 1/16 miles. Track condition doesn't bother him, either. Seven of his 25 lifetime wins were on wet tracks, and he also ran well the two times he tried the turf, finishing second both times.

"He's lost a step and I'm a little surprised that he's been able to compete for $25,000," said his trainer, Peter Stephen. "But he lays it down every time he runs, and if they don't go too fast he should be right there. He can't run 16 and change any more."

Rugged Cliff has quickly come to hand for trainer Sid Martin. He has won his last two starts and went 6 1/2 furlongs in a quick 1:16.81 to beat Ryson July 12. He had things his own way, though, and that likely helped him earn a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 87. He will face a lot more pressure during the early stages of Saturday's race, however, and he will be hard-pressed to repeat the same kind of performance.

Double Time and Rugger both have excellent speed, and that could help the chances of the late-running Preamble, who will be making his first start of the year. He would prefer more distance, but he did win sprinting last year and has had best-of-the-day workouts in two of his last three preps.

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