08/18/2011 1:27PM

Northlands Park: Hastings invaders looking sharp

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EDMONTON, Alberta – Hastings-based Senor Rojo, Summer Song, and Belle Evangeline have an excellent chance of sweeping the three stakes races that support the Grade 3, $300,000 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park on Saturday.

Senor Rojo will have to run his best race to win what looks like a very competitive renewal of the $75,000 Speed to Spare. Summer Song will be either the first or second choice in the $75,000 Edmonton Distaff Handicap, and Belle Evangeline appears to be standout in the $50,000 Sonoma Handicap for 3-year-old fillies.

The Speed to Spare is the most intriguing of the three races.

Senor Rojo, Footprint, and the Jim Meyaard-trained pair of Andiotis and Professor Pollard are the main players in the 1 3/8-mile race that drew seven older horses. But Senor Rojo and Footprint own something that the Meyaard pair doesn’t – a Grade 3 win at the distance. Senor Rojo, trained by Dave Forster, won the Grade 3 Premiers at Hastings in his final start last year. while Footprint won the 2007 Canadian Derby for trainer Joan Petrowski. Both are coming off solid races.

Senor Rojo ran an even race to finish third behind Crew Leader and St Liams Halo in the $50,000 S.W. Randall Plate going 1 1/16 miles at Hastings on July 17. Footprint couldn’t have been more impressive in his win over Professor Pollard in the 1 1/16-mile Westerner at Northlands on Aug. 6. Despite dueling three wide the whole way, he drew off to beat the favorite by two lengths.

Sandwiched between Footprint’s 6 3/4-length romp over Salt Flat Speed in the Spangled Jimmy on July 2 was a neck loss to Professor Pollard in the Don Fleming.

“I think he is just getting better with age,” said Petrowski. “He is going fine and hopefully he will run another good race.”

Edmonton Distaff: Notoriously back in form

Notoriously scored an impressive win over Summer Song in the $50,000 Mademoiselle Aug. 1 but her trainer, Rod Cone, isn’t expecting the same scenario in the City of Edmonton Distaff.

“I am pretty sure they won’t let her get away with a half-mile in 50 and change this time,” said Cone. “She doesn’t need the lead to win, though.”

A year ago Notoriously cruised to a eight-length win in the Sonoma. Earlier this year she came down with colic and Cone has done a great job of bringing her back to peak form.

Alan May, who trains Summer Song, will be happy to see the speedy Smart Roar in the field after Summer Song got stuck behind a slow pace in the Madamoiselle.

“She worked 1:10 and change going six furlongs the week before the race and then they went 1:16 in the race,” he said.

Summer Song came from off the pace to win the John Patrick in her previous start July 9.

Alywyn, trained by Meyaard, had rough trips in the Madamoiselle and John Patrick. Meyaard also trains Smart Roar.

“I wasn’t thrilled Alywyn drew the rail,” said Meyaard. “At least there will be a pace with my other filly in the race.”

Alywyn won the Madamoiselle last year.

Sonoma: Two for the money

Embellished would have been a heavy favorite to win the $50,000 Sonoma, but with her connections opting to try males in the Canadian Derby, the 1 1/16-mile Sonoma comes down to a match between Belle Evangeline and Maegans Princessess.

Belle Evangeline shipped in from Hastings to win a $40,000 optional sprint at Northlands on July 31 and has enough tactical speed to stay in touch with Mageans Princesses, who figures to be on the lead. Trained by Craig MacPherson, Belle Evangeline finished third going 1 1/16 miles in the $50,000 Supernaturel in her previous start.

Trainer Rod Cone is hoping sprint winner Maegans Princesses can carry her speed a middle distance for the first time.