09/07/2006 12:00AM

'Metropolitan' alone at top


EDMONTON, Alberta - Maybe it wasn't Seabiscuit versus War Admiral, but Saturday's matchup between Nolan's Cat and True Metropolitan in the $100,000 Speed to Spare here at Northlands Park had the look of a classic confrontation.

A clash between Nolan's Cat, from the United States, and True Metropolitan, a stalwart of the bullrings in the Canadian west, would have generated exceptional interest in the 1 3/8-mile Speed to Spare.

Now, however, Nolan's Cat will not be making the trip.

Trainer Dale Romans said Wednesday morning that he was going to scratch Nolan's Cat because travel arrangements were too difficult to make.

"I can't get him there," said Romans. "I was going to have to get him on a FedEx flight from Memphis to Montana, then van him another four hours, and it was all too hard to put together.

"I'm just looking for marathons for the horse, and this would've been great to run him in, but I just couldn't pull the whole thing off."

So what was once a clash of titans now resembles more of a coronation for True Metropolitan.

A Florida-bred trained by Terry Jordan for Bahadur Cheema, True Metropolitan shipped to Alberta from Hastings this spring to finish second in the Teeworth Plate at Stampede Park before finding his bearings in the Herald Gold Plate. He has dominated locally ever since.

After the Gold Plate triumph, Jordan shipped True Metropolitan here, where he took the $50,000 Spangled Jimmy by six lengths and the $50,000 Westerner by 4 1/4 lengths.

Between those two wins, a quick sojourn to the West Coast netted a second-place check in the British Columbia Cup Classic.

In his most recent prep for the Speed to Spare, True Metropolitan worked six furlongs in 1:12, an absolutely awe-inspiring time for a work at Northlands Park.

Those who will line up against the favorite include 2005 Canadian Derby winner Alabama Rain; Beau Brass, winner of the last two runnings of the Speed to Spare; Trick of the North, second to True Metropolitan in the Westerner; and distance specialist Royalty Boy.

All starters carry 126 pounds.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee