06/11/2003 11:00PM

Rare full field of 12


WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Saturday's first running of the $35,000 La Verendrye at six furlongs looks like a rematch between Briara and Regal Heir, but that didn't stop 11 other fillies and mares from being entered.

One of those 11 rivals, double stakes winner Top Stage Dancer, was excluded from the race due to lack of earnings in 2003, which resulted in a protest from trainer Wendy Anderson for owner Rosemarie Zilkowski. Top Stage Dancer was placed on the also-eligible list for the race, something that hasn't been seen here in years.

Both Briara and Regal Heir have the tactical speed needed to avoid a likely traffic jam in Saturday's large field. Briara, trained by Bert Blake for owner Nicholas Lotz, has been favored in all five of her starts and has lost only once, after a brutal trip in a six-horse field last year.

This year, with second-leading rider Travis Hightower in the irons, Briara easily won a five-furlong condition allowance race in her first start, May 11, and followed up with a 3 3/4-length victory over Regal Heir May 25 in an open allowance going 5 1/2 furlongs.

Regal Heir, trained by Sid Martin for Briar Hill Farm, was making her first start of the year May 25. She opened up by three lengths before being collared by Briara late on the turn. Regal Heir will now have to carry her speed an extra half-furlong, but improvement is expected in her second start off the layoff.

Winner of the Supernaturel at Hastings last year, Regal Heir has been working well with jockey Rohan Singh aboard.

If there is an upset it could come from Remiewaterbluz, trained by Clayton Gray for Well-Being Stable.

Remiewaterbluz has dominated in both her local starts since arriving from Texas, winning allowance races on May 9 and May 25 by 7 1/2 and 5 1/4 lengths.

In her last race, Remiewaterbluz came flying from just off the pace under leading rider Juan Crawford and finished in the same time - 1:05.40 - that Briara recorded later on the card.

Crawford, who is serving a two-day suspension Friday and Saturday, will be allowed to ride Remiewaterbluz in the La Verendrye.

Rounding out the main body of the field are Sands Fury, Turtle Ridge, Miss Sandy Dee, Miss Noire, Bitdaboss, Cathy's Star, Ms. Lady Rose, Galaxy Belle, and Rowdy Rose.