06/25/2003 11:00PM

'Neechitoo' heads field of four

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EDMONTON, Alberta - Northern Neechitoo, Alberta's champion older filly or mare in 2001 and a winner of her last two starts at Stampede Park this spring, will face only three opponents here in Saturday's $40,000 Wild Rose Handicap.

The field of four represents half of the nominees for the 20th running of the 6 1/2-furlong race.

Trained by Floyd Arthur, Northern Neechitoo comes into the Wild Rose in fine form. In her first start of the year, she failed to fire in the Marc Jenkins Memorial at six furlongs over a muddy track.

Bred by well-known Northern Alberta horseman Dennis Barton, who is one of her owners, Northern Neechitoo got a late start last year. She returned from a layoff to make her 2002 return in August.

But she acquitted herself in fine fashion, with two allowance victories and a runner-up finish in the Alberta Fall Classic Distaff in three starts.

Northern Neechito will retain the services of Quincy Welch, her regular rider the past two years.

Opposing Northern Neechito will be Kitscoty Klipper and Secret Bullet, who both return following victories in optional claiming races, and Codes Decree, who is winless in three tries as a 4-year-old.

A year ago, Codes Decree won a pair of stakes races over fellow sophomores, taking the Northlands Oaks and the Alberta Oaks.

The Rick Hedge-trained Kitscoty Klipper is having a solid campaign with a pair of seconds and a third to go with her recent win, all in optional claiming company.

Richard Hamel takes over as her rider.