08/10/2007 12:00AM

Margo's Gift comes off DQ win


AUBURN, Wash. - Margo's Gift, who won the recent Premio Esmeralda Stakes via disqualification, will try for an undisputed stakes win on Sunday when he heads a field of eight 2-year-olds in the $45,000 Strong Ruler at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Margo's Gift, a son of Polish Gift from the barn of trainer Doris Harwood, won his 4 1/2-furlong debut over $40,000 maidens here on May 28. He came back in the six-furlong Premio Esmeralda on July 21 and dueled for the lead throughout before being nipped by Gallon right on the wire. A stewards' inquiry concluded that Gallon had bumped Margo's Gift and caused crowding in late stretch, and Gallon was disqualified and placed second.

"It was a shame that any of the top three finishers had to lose that day, but I did feel that our horse ran a winning race," said Harwood. "He was caught in tight between horses, but he kept battling hard all the way. He is a big, tough horse who is not afraid of anything."

Harwood said Margo's Gift came out of the Premio Esmeralda in perfect condition, and that he has trained especially well since the track was re-graded and renovated on July 30 and 31. Leading rider Ricky Frazier again has the mount.

Courageous Son figures to give Margo's Gift a stern testing on Sunday, just as he did in the Premio Esmeralda. Courageous Son dueled with Margo's Gift from the rail in that race and took the brunt of the crowding in late stretch, forcing rider Gallyn Mitchell to check near the wire. Courageous Son, a He's Tops gelding trained by Jim Penney, was beaten only a length while finishing third.

Courageous Son's connections had hoped to draw outside Margo's Gift in the Strong Ruler, but that did not happen. Margo's Gift drew the outside post, while Courageous Son will break from post 6 under Mitchell.

Blackjack Ketchem could be the dark horse in the Strong Ruler field. Blackjack Ketchem, a son of Katowice who is trained by Tim McCanna, won his second start by 4 1/4 lengths here on July 22, when he covered 5 1/2 furlongs in a rapid 1:04 on a sloppy track. Though he is stepping up sharply from the $12,500 level, Blackjack Ketchum has keen speed and could pose a threat on the lead.