11/07/2002 12:00AM

Only track can beat 'Buckeye'

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There's never a guarantee that a horse is going to win a particular race, but if Buckeye Bates runs the way he normally does, they won't beat him in Saturday's seventh race at Hastings Park, a $15,000 optional sprint for older horses.

The only hope the other five horses have is if the track is wet, and Buckeye Bates doesn't handle it. He's won 7 of his 10 lifetime starts and all of his races have been on a fast surface. It's very likely the track will be wet Saturday, but Buckeye Bates's trainer, Frank Barroby, said he thinks the 5-year-old gelding will handle it just fine.

"He worked a good three furlongs in the slop Wednesday, and if he makes the lead he should have a nice track to run over," he said.

Leading rider Pedro Alvarado will be aboard.

There is some other speed in the race, but Buckeye Bates appears to have too much class for the other front-runners. He hooked up with Saturday opponent Silver Sky earlier in the year, and Silver Sky faded to last in his worst outing of the year. Of those in Saturday's field, Real Quest has come the closest to Buckeye Bates, finishing four lengths behind Buckeye Bates when they met in a $20,000 claiming race Aug. 10.

Happy Again, in his first start in almost two months, finished a well-beaten sixth behind Buckeye Bates in a $20,000 sprint Oct. 5. He came back with a fourth-place finish going a 1 1/16 miles Oct. 19.

Bolivar appears to have the best chance of picking up the pieces late. He handles a wet track and finished a fast-closing second to Find Our Star in a $15,000 route Oct. 27.

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