08/23/2012 1:10PM

Northlands Park: Commander looks to continue dominance in Westerner

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EDMONTON, Alberta – Hastings-based horses will have a big impact on the three stakes races supporting the Grade 3, $200,000 Canadian Derby at Northlands on Saturday. That is especially true in the $50,000 Westerner Handicap for 3-year-olds and up that goes as the 11th race.

Commander, trained by Dennis Terry, is going to be a very short price in the 1 1/16-mile race. Considering how dominant he was in his three starts at Northlands, it was a bit surprising to see the Westerner attract 10 horses. In particular, Commander’s win in the $50,000 Don Fleming on Aug. 6 was illuminating. He was ridden by Mario Gutierrez in the 1 1/16-mile race, and he basically just galloped the whole way while posting a 7 1/2-length win over Footprint. He will be packing high weight of 124 pounds and will be conceding between six and 11 pounds.

“Talk about horses for courses,” said Terry. “Commander just loves it here. He is a huge horse so I don’t think the weight will be a problem.”

Gutierrez retains the mount.

Senor Rojo appears to coming up to a big race for trainer Dave Forster. After seeing enough of Grade 3 Longacres Mile winner Taylor Said at Hastings, Forster shipped Senor Rojo to Northlands, where he rallied to finish third in an optional $40,000 claiming sprint Aug. 11. Senor Rojo won the 1 3/8-mile Speed to Spare at Northlands last year, so he will appreciate the added distance. Forster and Terry are stabled next to each other at Northlands and were kibitzing with each other Wednesday afternoon.

“How are you going to beat Commander?” said Terry.

“With a trip wire,” said Forster.

Footprint looks like the best of the locals but he hasn’t been able to warm up Commander in his last two races. Trainer Joan Petrowski won the 2007 Grade 3 Canadian Derby with Footprint and was proud of the way the 8-year-old gelding is still competitive.

“The derby is a tough race on so many horses so I think it’s pretty amazing the way he is still running so well at his age,” said Petrowski.

No Hesitation is looking for his first win since he captured the 2010 Canadian Derby.

Forster saddles threats in two stakes

Forster has serious contenders with Madeira Park in the $50,000 Sonoma for 3-year-old fillies and Heidi Maria in the $75,000 City of Edmonton Distaff for fillies and mares. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.

Madeira Park rallied to finish second behind Tempered Sapphire in the one-mile, $50,000 Northlands Oaks on Aug. 3.

Tempered Sapphire, trained by Rod Cone, will be looking for her fourth straight win.

Heidia Maria earned her first stakes when she shipped to Northlands for the $50,000 Madamoiselle on Aug. 6.

Smart Roar, third in the Madamoiselle, could have the edge this time. She held on well after dueling with Overvalued, but Overvalued is missing the race and Smart Roar looks like the lone speed. Smart Roar could be gone if she breaks alertly from the rail. She is trained by Amber Meyaard.