08/05/2006 12:00AM

The Max offers connections repeat chance

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Owner Robert Mitchell and trainer Bert Blake will be looking to repeat in Monday's $100,000 Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs.

The Manitoba Derby heads a blockbuster card that includes three $40,000 stakes - the Jack Hardy, Winnipeg Futurity, and Wheat City.

Mitchell and Blake won last year's Manitoba Derby with Prime Time T.V., who had been training for a return to racing but died here early Thursday morning after a severe bout of colic.

This year, Mitchell and Blake rest their hopes on The Max in the Manitoba Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds.

The Max finished second in two starts against maiden special weight company on turf at Churchill Downs. Purchased privately after his second start, The Max took the 1 1/16-mile Derby Trial Stakes in his local debut on July 16.

Quick Witted, one of two horses entered by trainer Emile Corbel, finished second, two lengths back of The Max, in the Derby Trial.

A son of Distorted Humor, Quick Witted won his first two starts locally, a maiden special weight race on May 7 and the Golden Boy on June 3.

I Tell U What, trained by Aaron Sayler, scored his lone win this season in a first-level allowance race, a start before he finished third in the Derby Trial.

Vanilla Scoop ran fourth in the Derby Trial. Trained by Bernell Rhone, he was stakes-placed at Prairie Meadows and Tampa Bay Downs earlier this year.

Brooklands, the other Corbel trainee and one of two maidens in the field, rallied late to finish fifth in the Derby Trial.

Lord Kipling heads a list of three shippers in the Manitoba Derby. Trained by Amber Blair, he has two wins to his credit, both going one mile at Prairie Meadows, where he defeated maiden special weight company and won over first-level allowance company.

In his most recent start, Lord Kipling finished second, beaten a nose, against second-level allowance company at Canterbury Park, also at one mile.

Halo's Storm, the likely pacesetter, defeated $25,000 maiden claimers at Gulfstream Park in his debut this February and won a $40,000 starter allowance at Santa Anita in March.

After three starts at Hastings, including a third-place finish in the Klondike, Halo's Storm was sent back to Southern California, where he trained before being sent north for the Derby.

Empress Pegasus, a maiden and the lone filly in the field, finished second against maiden special company twice at Santa Anita early this year. In her most recent start, Empress Pegasus, a daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus, was seventh in a maiden special weight race on turf at Churchill Downs.