06/24/2001 11:00PM

Meet Baie Comeau, a contender


EDMONTON, Alberta - Fancy As is still considered to be the premier 3-year-old in Alberta, but based on the performance of Baie Comeau in the June 16 Alberta Derby, Fancy As may have some competition.

Trained by Leanne Knechtel, Baie Comeau has come out of nowhere to become a contender for the Aug. 25 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park.

Baie Comeau did not start as a

2-year-old because he was too immature, but Knechtel made some minor adjustments to his training schedule this year before his first start. Knechtel saw the feisty side of the colt in his first race, when he battled back after nearly knocking himself out in the gate.

"He reared up and bumped his head and I was afraid he wouldn't make it," said Knechtel. "[Jockey] Rory Noel said he was real woozy until the first turn and he finished third, but he came back and won an allowance race after that where he ran an 81 Beyer so I knew he was in the hunt."

Because of Baie Comeau's inconsistency, Knechtel can't be sure what to expect from day to day and is hesitant to predict when he will run again. He has shown he can run on an off track, and is bred to easily handle the

1 3/8-mile distance of the $150,000 Canadian Derby, but the decision to point him toward a showdown with Fancy As has yet to be made. If he's training well, Knechtel will likely enter him in the Ky Alta here at 1 1/16 miles July 14.

"Right now we're not pointing him anywhere," Knechtel said, "but we won't run him short. I never knew I would enter him for the Alberta Derby until two days prior because we just weren't sure what to expect from him."