05/19/2007 12:00AM

Must catch Thesaratogaexpress


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Strategy will play a key role in who wins the $50,000 Jim Coleman Province Stakes for 3-year-olds at Hastings on Monday. The 6 1/2-furlong feature drew five horses, including the first three finishers in the CTHS Sales Stakes, Stephanson, Ookashada, and Thesaratogaexpress.

In the CTHS Sales Stakes, Ookashada and Thesaratogaexpress went head and head for the first half-mile and were spent when Stephanson made his strong move to wrest control of the race in midstretch.

Troy Taylor, who trains Thesaratogaexpress, isn't changing anything for the Province. Thesaratogaexpress drew inside of Ookashada, and Taylor will be instructing leading rider Mario Gutierrez to let him roll early.

"We're going to go," said Taylor. "I think he can rate, but we drew inside this time so we'll let him wing it."

On the other hand, Toni Cloutier is taking the blinkers off Ookashada with the hope that he'll relax a bit.

"He was pretty green as a 2-year-old so we ran him in blinkers to help him stay focused," she said. "He trains without them and I noticed he got a little fired up when we put them on him in the paddock before the Sales Stakes."

Pedro Alvarado rides Ookashada.

"He drew outside, so Pedro should have some options," said Cloutier. "Plus, there is some other speed in the field."

Cloutier was referring to Ghost Pirate. Trained by Terry Clyde, Ghost Pirate will be making his first start of the year Monday. He won two races from three starts as a 2-year-old, and in both wins he led from start to finish.

A speed duel would certainly help the chances of both Stephanson and Packer Sweep.

Stephanson, who is trained by Allan Jack, is either a much-improved horse this year or he just fell into a good thing when Ookashada and Thesaratogaexpress knocked themselves out in the CTHS Sales Stakes.

In his first start for trainer Jim Brown at Hastings, Packer Sweep came from 10 lengths behind to win a $50,000 optional sprint April 29. He was coming off a fourth-place finish in a one-mile $50,000 claiming race at Gulfstream Park March.