09/21/2006 12:00AM

Raise the Bluff shoots for a derby double


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Horses shipping in from Emerald Downs will be front and center in this weekend's important stakes at Hastings, including Raise the Bluff, who looks live in the Grade 3, $250,000 British Columbia Derby on Sunday.

Trained by Junior Coffey, Raise the Bluff overcame a poor start and a bit of a rough trip to win the Emerald Downs Breeders' Cup Derby on Sept. 4. A Kentucky-bred colt by Pine Bluff, Raise the Bluff was coming off a fourth-place finish in the Seattle Slew Breeders' Cup, where he made a strong move to reach contention at the top of top of the stretch but then hung. Coffey added blinkers for the Emerald Derby and thinks the equipment change made a big difference.

"Some people thought he might show more speed when we put the blinkers on, but that wasn't what we were looking for," he said. "He's a very manageable horse with or without blinkers, and we still wanted him to relax early and finish strongly. We made the change because he seemed to lose focus in the stretch in his last couple of races. We were hoping the blinkers would help him keep his mind on business, and they seemed to do the trick."

It was the second time in the last three years that Coffey has won the Emerald Derby. He also saddled My Creed, who beat Flamethrowintexan in 2004. Flamethrowintexan cruised to an easy win when he shipped up for the B.C. Derby in his next start.

"I basically just led him over," Coffey said of My Creed. "Bob Hess sent him up from California all ready to go. I've had Raise the Bluff right from the beginning, so this was a lot more rewarding."

Coffey wasn't sure how Raise the Bluff would handle the smaller track at Hastings.

"He's medium-sized, and he has that old Northern Dancer type of blocky body," he said. "But he's got a very long stride. Hopefully that won't be a problem with the short run into the turns."

Coffey, who spent seven years in the National Football League and learned how to prepare for a big event when he led the Washington Huskies to a win in 1964 Rose Bowl, believes Raise the Bluff is ready for a strong effort Sunday.

"I don't know how he stacks up against the horses he'll be facing," he said. "But I was happy with his five-furlong work last Sunday, and he seems to be coming up to the race in very good shape."

Coffey said Nathan Chaves would come up from Emerald to ride Raise the Bluff. Chaves has ridden Raise the Bluff in all of his races this year.

"It would be nice if we could get a mount for him earlier on the card, just so he could get a feel for the track," said Coffey.

Actually, Chaves has some familiarity with Hastings. He's ridden the odd stakes horse here, and in 2001 he came up to ride part-time after the conclusion of the Emerald meet. He picked up 19 mounts, winning once. This will be the first time he has ridden at Hastings since.

Real Candy has cheering section

A lot of people on the Hastings backstretch will be rooting Saturday for Jeannie Spence, the majority owner of B.C. Oaks contender Real Candy.

Spence, a retired schoolteacher, is your basic do-gooder at Hastings. "If someone breaks a toe or anything, the next thing you know Jeannie has organized a fund-raiser for them," said owner-trainer Randy Lane.

Real Candy is coming off a third-place finish to Excited Miss in the 1 1/16-mile Hong Kong Jockey Club on Sept. 2. Being a lightly raced daughter of Real Quiet, she appears to have plenty of upside potential. Her late-running style suggests she'll appreciate the extra distance in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks.

"It's been a lot of fun having her in the barn," said Spence. "She's like a community horse with a lot of people involved helping out."

Her trainer, Quint McCabe, is also known for his benevolence, particularly for feeding hungry backstretch workers. He was very pleased with Real Candy's final half-mile work in 47.40 seconds last Friday.

"She's really coming around, and I really like the way she finished and then galloped out in her work," he said. "If she wins, we'll probably have steaks instead of burgers next week."

Anti-slots group files appeal

The Hastings Park Conservancy, a local citizens group that lost its lawsuit trying to overturn the city of Vancouver's approval of slots at Hastings, has appealed the decision to the B.C. Court of Appeal. According to city officials, it will likely take at least four months before the case is heard, and the entire process could take up to 10 months.

"All we know is that it's going to take a while," said Chuck Keeling, vice president of racing operations for Great Canadian Gaming Corp., Hastings's parent company. "We'll keep working with the city to finalize our operating agreement. Once the appeal process is over, we should have everything organized and ready to go."

The Vancouver City Council approved the slots in July 2004.