08/05/2001 11:00PM

Ontario shipper Stage Classic wins Manitoba Derby


Stage Classic, a gelding who shipped in from Ontario, held off the late surge of Fancy As to win the $100,000 Manitoba Derby by three quarters of a length Monday at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The 6-5 favorite under regular rider Constant Montpellier, Stage Classic tracked locally based hopeful Corporate Shuffle from the start in the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds.

When Corporate Shuffle, who had been undefeated in seven races here, gave way around the final turn, Stage Classic quickly took charge, and went on to record his first stakes victory.

The stakes win was the first for trainer Dave Cotey, who also owns Stage Classic in partnership with Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith. The same owners won the 1999 Manitoba Derby, with Wafare Warrior.

"It was getting close at the end," said Cotey, "but he has a tendency to hang a little bit."

Fancy As, who is based in Alberta and was seeking his 10th straight victory, finished nine lengths clear of third-place finisher Corporate Shuffle, with Command Start and G and L Special rounding out the order of finish.

Stage Classic, a Kentucky-bred who was coming off a second-place finish on turf in the Toronto Cup at Woodbine, earned $60,000 to boost his career bankroll to $220,893.