07/22/2004 12:00AM

Patience with Treasured Friend rewarded

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - In his usual understated way, trainer Dave Forster referred to winning both stakes races last Sunday at Hastings as "not a bad day at the office."

Forster sent out Treasured Friend to upset the top local 3-year-olds in the Jim Coleman Province, and also saddled the first two finishers, Socorro County and Gold Accent, in the Nanaimo Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Forster's faith in Treasured Friend was rewarded with a front-running, two-length victory over Lord Samari and favored Tobe Suave. A Kentucky-bred son of Jade Hunter, Treasured Friend had displayed tremendous talent while preparing for his debut this April, but the headstrong colt bolted when he approached the first turn in his first start and was subsequently eased. Next time out, he set extremely fast fractions while posting a one-length win over Wiley. After two subsequent starts, where once again he set very fast fractions - a second to Louie Downtown in a $50,000 optional race June 19 and an eighth-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Burnaby - Treasured Friend was starting to look like a horse who couldn't be rated.

Forster wasn't deterred, though, and when Treasured Friend worked a very slow five furlongs in 1:04.40 on July 14, he decided to give him another try with stakes company.

"Frank Penn, who owns and bred the horse, never thought that he would go a route, but I never lost hope," said Forster. "You know, he's a pretty nice horse and it just took him a long time to come around. I knew I had something to work with and it was just a matter if he would settle down or not. It looks like he has."

Sunday was also a good day for jockey Robert Skelly, who was riding for the first time since being injured in a training mishap a couple of months ago. Skelly rode Socorro County to a neck win in the Nanaimo. Skelly inherited the mount from Nicky Wright, who is out with a broken kneecap.

"It's great to be back riding," said Skelly. "I'm a little tired, but other than that I'm feeling pretty good, and it certainly didn't hurt to win a stakes race."

Forster was also happy to have Skelly back. He rode two other Forster horses on Sunday, finishing second with Blowin in the Wind in an allowance race and fourth on Cariboo Prospector in the Burnaby.

"He's a great rider and has a great attitude," said Forster. "It's also nice to have him back to ride Blowin in the Wind. There's a few quirks to him, but Robert seems to get along with him beautifully."

Being a Kentucky-bred, Treasured Friend isn't eligible to run on B.C. Cup Day on Aug. 2, and Forster wasn't sure if Socorro County would run in the Stallion Stakes. Regal Red has something to do with that decision. Socorro County has won every time she hasn't run against Regal Red.

"I might look at another race for her," he said. "But it probably depends on how much weight we get from Regal Red on whether we run here or go somewhere else."

Regal Red appears sharp

Trainer Robbie Anderson said that Regal Red will definitely run in the Stallion Stakes, and he was pleased with the way she worked last week.

"I'll probably work her again this Monday and that should do it," he said. "We gave her a week off and she seems to be happy to be back in training."

Anderson-trained horses finished first and second in the Timber Music Stakes for 2-year-old fillies last Saturday, and both Fuchsia Gold and Slewpast are being pointed for the B.C. Cup Debutante.

Standouts may scare off challengers

Nominations are out for B.C. Cup Day. Full fields are expected in the Debutante, Nursery, Sprint, and the colts division of the Stallion Stakes. The Classic, Distaff, and fillies division of the Stallion Stakes, however, are all headed by dominant horses, and it's hard to predict how many horses will actually run.

Lord Nelson and Roscoe Pito stand out in the Classic, as do Dancewithavixen and Victor's Secret in the Distaff, and Regal Red in the Stallion Stakes. They aren't likely to face too many challengers.