06/23/2005 11:00PM

Lt. Governors' coming up a strong race

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - With 17 nominees and a local contingent expected to be led by Lord Nelson, a two-time winner of the race, next Friday's Grade 3, $125,000 Lieutenant Governors' is easily shaping up to be the best event of the season.

The champion older horse here for the past four seasons, Lord Nelson is off to a great start in 2005. After finishing a close second to Blowin in the Wind in the 6 1/2-furlong George Royal, he won the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sprint and most recently the John Longden. Twice in the last four years, Lord Nelson has won the Lt. Governors', which will be run on a Canada Day card with a holiday post time of 1:25 p.m. A classy 8-year-old, Lord Nelson also finished second last year and in 2001.

Lord Nelson breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 over a sloppy track on June 17, and his trainer, Dino Condilenios, said he will give him a solid work in the next few days.

"That was just a maintenance move last week, but we'll get serious either Monday or Tuesday," said Condilenios.

Condilenios also expects to run Five Point Star. A 5-year-old gelding, Five Point Star finished third to Lord Nelson in the Hong Kong Jockey Club and then shipped to Alberta to win the Herald Gold Plate at Stampede Park.

"I want to see who else is going before I completely make up my mind about Five Point Star," he said. "If there is a bunch of other speed, I might look for an easier spot."

Five Point Star can rate. He came from just off the pace to win the Herald Gold Plate and won a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Hastings last year from a stalking position.

"I know he doesn't need the lead," said Condilenios, "but if there's five or six horses that have a lot of speed, I don't know if he'll get the kind of trip we're looking for."

If Flamethrowintexan starts, the pace will certainly be lively. That's a big if, though. Flamethrowintexan, the 2004 B.C. Derby winner trained by Jim Penney, has had only one race, a sprint, since running third in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby last October. According to assistant trainer Kay Cooper, the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Lt. Governors' presents a bit of a problem.

"We would prefer not to go that far off of just one sprint," she said. "Mind you, it was a perfect race for him and he came out of it in great shape."

Flamethrowintexan toyed with his opponents while winning a 6 1/2-furlong optional race at Emerald on June 11. He galloped out strongly and has been training forwardly since the race.

"He had what you would call an unofficial work the other day," said Cooper. "He two-minute-licked a mile, and we caught the last half in 49 and change. We're just trying to find the best spot. We even considered a race at Churchill Downs, but that didn't work out. If we can't find something else we'll probably run up there [at Hastings]."

Trainer Arnie Turner will run at least two horses, R. Associate and Snorter, and might also enter Kickboard.

Snorter is the best of the three. He's a graded stakes winner with $237,780 in earnings and is coming into the race in very good form. He won his seasonal debut in an optional claiming route at Oaklawn Park on March 26 and finished a close fifth in the Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star on April 30. The second- and third-place finishers in the Texas Mile, Supah Blitz and Twilight Road, both came back to win graded stakes in their next start.

Snorter ran back in the Lone Star Park Handicap on May 30, and he had a rough trip while finishing seventh behind Supah Blitz. According to Turner, Snorter is stabled at Emerald and will ship to Hastings in the next few days. He was recently purchased by Ross McLeod.

"I don't know much about him," said Turner. "I'm not sure if he'll need a work before he runs, but we'll assess the situation when he gets here."

R. Associate was purchased by Garth Weeks in the horses of racing age sale held at Hastings on April 19. He was the sale-topper at $65,000, and it looks like he was well worth the money.

A Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding, R. Associate has been right there in his three starts for Turner. He finished a close second to Roscoe Pito in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race May 14 and then lost by a head to Lord Nelson in the John Longden 6000 on June 4. Turner then sent R. Associate to Emerald for the Budweiser Emerald Handicap on June 19, and he finished a fast-closing third. According to Turner, he would have been second but had traffic trouble in midstretch.

"The winner cut us off, and while I don't think we were going to win the race, the incident probably cost us second money," he said. "Our jockey claimed foul and the stewards took a long look at it, but they didn't change the order of finish. I'm glad R. Associate has turned out to be a nice one. Garth hasn't been involved in racing for a while, and he's really enjoying himself with this one."

Blowin in the Wind, Quiet Cash, Roscoe Pito, and Illusive Force are all strong possibilities for the Lt. Governors' as well.