08/15/2013 1:23PM

Northlands Park: Commander goes for repeat in Westerner Handicap

Four-Footed Fotos
Commander will be seeking to defend his title in Saturday's $50,000 Westerner Handicap.

The large crowd that is expected to show up to watch the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park on Saturday also will get a treat watching Commander at work in the $50,000 Westerner Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up drew a solid field of seven horses, but there isn’t much doubt the race goes through Commander, who drew the rail and will be prominent right from the start.

Since arriving at Northlands last year, Commander has become a bit of a local sensation. He has won six of his seven starts here, and he’s hasn’t lost any of his five races going around three turns. Last year, jockey Mario Gutierrez appeared to be galloping him when he won the Westerner by eight lengths.

Trained by Dennis Terry, Commander carried 123 pounds in his win over Silver Baubles in the $50,000 Fred Jones on Aug. 3. He will be conceding as many as 11 pounds while packing high weight of 125 pounds in the Westerner. Commander is a good-sized horse, and he didn’t have any trouble packing 124 pounds winning last year’s Westerner. Aaron Gryder, who was aboard for the Fred Jones, rides Commander on Saturday.

Terry is happy with how Commander is coming up to the race.

“There is something about Northlands that brings the best out of him, and he really is a fan favorite here,” Terry said. “What can I say? I just lead him over and let him do his business. One thing about it, he really enjoys what he is doing.”

Shrug figures to give Commander a stern test. Trained by Dino Condilenios, Shrug has good speed and used it to beat Commander going 6 1/2 furlongs in the $50,000 George Royal at Hastings on April 28. After finishing second to Herbie D in the John Longden, Shrug showed he could handle three turns by winning the $50,000 Sir Winston Churchill going 1 1/16 miles June 9. He has been freshened since he ran a dull race in the Lieutenant Governors’ on July 1.

Shrug is versatile, and it will be interesting to see if Scott Williams sends him after Commander right away or tries to stalk.

Silver Baubles handed Commander his only loss at Northlands in the $58,000 Journal on June 8, but that race was going 6 1/2 furlongs. Silver Baubles finished fourth, 9 1/2 lengths behind Commander, when they met in the one-mile Spangled Jimmy on June 29.

Trained by Ron Grieves, Silver Baubles rallied to finish second in the Fred Jones and could be dangerous if Shrug and Commander get carried away with each other during the early stages of the race.

City of Edmonton Distaff Handicap: Saturday Nite Ride vulnerable

Saturday Nite Ride figures to be a short price but could be vulnerable going 1 1/16 miles in the $75,000 City of Edmonton Distaff Handicap, which drew five fillies and mares.

Trained by Terry, Saturday Nite Ride was an easy front-running winner over Madeira Park in the $50,000 Madamoiselle on Aug. 2, but shipping in from Hastings is Gosailgo, who also has good speed and will likely use it breaking from the outside post.

Saturday Nite Ride also won’t have the help of her stablemate Awesome Plan, who seemed to be running interference for her in the Madamoiselle.

Nonetheless, Saturday Nite Ride is versatile and should receive a heady ride from Gryder, who has won more than 3,000 races in his career.

Madeira Park and Dashing Daisy figure to benefit the most if a duel develops.

Maderia Park rallied to finish second after finding a way to avoid Awesome Plan in the Madamoiselle.

Dashing Daisy closed with a furious rush to upset the $50,000 B.C. Cup Distaff on Aug. 5.

Gosailgo set the pace as the favorite in the B.C. Cup Distaff before finishing fourth in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Tempered Sapphire completes the field.