10/18/2002 12:00AM

Premier's sets up for Futural


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Futural, who was good enough to be favored in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year, looks like the horse to beat in Sunday's

1 3/8-mile Premier's at Hastings Park. Five other horses have been entered, including B.C. Derby winner Cruising Kat.

Futural, who is winless in 2002, is obviously not the same horse who was disqualified from first place in the 2001 Hollywood Gold Cup. He banked more than $475,000 that year.

But he earned a 98 Beyer Figure for his second-place finish in the Sir Winston Churchill Handicap here Sept. 29, and that's a higher number than any of his competitors have ever earned. Plus, the Premier's shapes up similar to the Churchill in that there is no real speed horse. Futural should get a perfect trip, either on the lead or from a stalking position just off of Shacane.

Futural started off his 2002 season with a third-place finish behind Reba's Gold and Sky Jack in an allowance race at Santa Anita in early February, but since that race had not finished in the top three until his second-place finish in the Churchill.

Futural was claimed by owner Kim Hart for $80,000 at Hollywood Park June 6, and his trainer, Steve Bryant, said he thinks Futural is ready for a big effort Sunday.

"He came out of the Churchill in excellent shape, and he should run well," Bryant said.

Futural hasn't worked in the three weeks since he last ran, but Bryant said, "He's plenty fit, and he's been galloping along just fine."

Dave Wilson rides.