05/10/2007 12:00AM

Monashee, 'Metropolitan' too good for locals

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - It's hard to say which horse was more impressive last weekend at Hastings, True Metropolitan in the George Royal Stakes on Saturday or Monashee in the Brighouse Belles on Sunday.

One thing is clear, though - True Metropolitan and Monashee are heads and tails above the rest of the horses in their respective divisions, and if they remained at Hastings they would have to carry significant weight. There's also a good chance True Metropolitan and Monashee would end up sitting in the barn because it would be hard to convince other owners and trainers to run against them.

For True Metropolitan's connections, owner Bob Cheema and trainer Terry Jordan, that won't be a problem. All along they had planned to run True Metropolitan in the George Royal, and if all went well, ship him to Woodbine for the Gradeo3, $150,000 Eclipse Stakes on May 21.

According to Jordan, True Metropolitan came out of his race in good shape and is expected to leave for Toronto on Tuesday. Here's a scary thought: Last year, True Metropolitan was good enough to win the Sovereign Award as the best older horse on dirt in Canada. While in training this spring, he appeared to have improved over the winter. His race in the George Royal with Quincy Welch aboard confirmed it.

True Metropolitan had never won sprinting before, but in the 6 1/2-furlong George Royal he made a powerful move while going four wide around the stretch turn, then drew off to an easy 3 1/4-length win over Forceful Intention in a good 1:16.49.

"You thought I was kidding when I told you he was a better horse this year," said Jordan. "That was a very good race for him, and we'll give him a try in Toronto again."

Jordan also said Quincy Welch will retain the mount for the Eclipse, even though Todd Kabel rode True Metropolitan when he raced at Woodbine last fall, winning the Grade 3 Woodbine Slots Cup and finishing third in the Valedictory.

"He's never lost with Quincy riding, so if he wants to ride the horse, he gets the call," said Jordan.

Calendar Girl will be on the same plane with True Metropolitan. A 3-year-old Kentucky-bred filly, Calendar Girl was purchased by Cheema after she won a $32,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26. In her first start for Cheema and Jordan, she easily won the six-furlong Mount Royal Stakes at Stampede Park last Sunday. She was awarded a 94 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest number received by any horse at Stampede since 2005. She is being pointed to the Grade 3, $250,000 Selene Stakes on May 20.

"She might have been more impressive than True Metropolitan," said Jordan. "She went 1:10 flat while going four wide the whole way. Between the two horses, they'll be running for $400,000. If we stayed here it would be $100,000. It wasn't a hard choice to make."

Plans for Monashee uncertain

Trainer Tracy McCarthy was thrilled with the way Monashee ran in the Brighouse Belles. With Dave Wilson aboard, Monashee stalked Spirit to Spare for the first half-mile, took the lead on the stretch turn, and then was hand ridden to the wire to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Slewpast.

McCarthy was even more excited about the way Monashee came back in her first start since she came down with plural pneumonia last year.

"With plural pneumonia you can have severe scarring on the lungs, and until you stress a horse you don't know exactly what their lung capacity is," said McCarthy. "Actually, she probably ran better in her first start of the year than she ever has. Honestly, it was a pretty easy race for her and she came back great. Davy said he had a ton of horse the whole way."

McCarthy is a bit reluctant to ship Monashee out of town, but she might not have any choice. Under the allowance conditions of the Brighouse Belles, Monashee carried 122 pounds, and it just wasn't a contest. Last year she won her last two starts toting 125 pounds. The next five stakes at Hastings are all handicaps, and with her overwhelming superiority in the older fillies and mares division, Monashee would probably have to carry the grandstand if she stayed at Hastings.

"This is our home, and not only do we love running here but we want to support the local industry," said McCarthy. "We're going to nominate her to the next stakes and see what happens. If we have to leave town, we're leaning towards going to Toronto. We would still be in Canada, and the money is as good if not better than in California."

Spirit to Spare retired

According to trainer Tom Longstaff, Spirit to Spare, who was the second choice in the Brighouse Belles, has been retired and will be bred to Terrell, who stands at Canmor Farms.

Spirit to Spare won the Brighouse Belles last year as well as the Vancouver Sun, beating Monashee by a half-length.

"She's sound, but she's just had too many tough races in California and she seems to have lost interest," said Longstaff. "There's not a lot of sprints for her here, and she's not going to beat Monashee anyway."

Spirit to Spare won nine races and earned $203,933, and placed in the Grade 3 Las Flores Stakes at Santa Anita in 2006.