04/23/2004 12:00AM

Regal Red comes into Fair Lady off big works

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Regal Red figures to be a solid favorite when she makes her 2004 debut in next Sunday's Fair Lady Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. She didn't win a stakes race last year, but her 10 1/2-length romp over Comic Opera in a maiden race last August was clearly the most impressive performance by any 2-year-old at the meet.

Comic Opera went on to be named the champion 2-year-old filly in British Columbia, and the 79 Beyer Figure that Regal Red earned for her dazzling performance easily eclipsed the best figure, 67, that 2-year-old colts and geldings champ Lord Samarai posted for his win in the Jack Diamond Futurity.

Regal Red has every right to be a good one. She is out of Sophie J, who, next to Dancewithavixen, was the most dominating 3-year-old filly seen at Hastings in recent years. In 1995, Sophie J won five stakes, including a victory over older fillies and mares in the Ballerina, and would have easily won the B.C. Oaks with a better trip. She retired with $293,820 in earnings and has passed on her ability to her two previous foals, B.C. West and Commodore Craig. B.C. West has won three races and $149,976, while Commodore Craig is a stakes winner with more than $160,000 in the bank.

Regal Red has also been very impressive in her training this spring. Her best day was a five-furlong work in 1:00.80 seconds in company with Commodore Craig on April 12. The time was obviously decent, but it was how Regal Red went about her business that would lead you to believe she's something special.

Not often does a lightly raced 3-year-old filly outwork a proven older stakes horse, but in this instance, that appeared to be the case. With Regal Red on the inside, they broke off and finished the work together. Nevertheless, it appeared that jockey Frank Fuentes had Regal Red under tight restraint, while Chris Loseth was working hard just to keep up on Commodore Craig.

Regal Red came back with a solid six-furlong move in 1:15.20 seconds on April 19. Trainer Robbie Anderson said he is happy with the way she's coming into the Fair Lady.

"That was a very good work for her," said Anderson, referring to the move with Commodore Craig. "She did have a bit of a fitness edge over him, though, as it was her second five-furlong work and just his first. But she is doing extremely well, knock on wood."

Anderson attributes her abbreviated 2-year-old campaign to typical growing pains.

"She was fighting shins, check ligaments, you name it," he said. "She seems to have gotten over all of that, and right now she's perfectly sound."

Anderson also trained Sophie J, and of her three foals, Regal Red reminds Anderson of Sophie J the most.

"She's very similar in temperament," he said. "Neither of them like to be shod, and they both hate having their mane pulled."

Regal Red was bred and is owned by Fred and Corinne Gumprich, who race as Linwood Stables.

Trainer Craig MacPherson isn't conceding the race to Regal Red, though. He said he likes the way She's a Bombshell, last year's Sadie Diamond Futurity winner, is training. The Fair Lady will be She's a Bombshell's first start since she won the futurity last September.

"She's training okay, and I think it will be a competitive race," he said.

MacPherson also referred to the Fair Lady as the On Target invitational. Regal Red, She's a Bombshell, and Bullseye Bess, who won a $50,000 optional race on opening day and is expected to run, are all by local stallion On Target.

Comic Opera recovering from infection

According to trainer Jim Brown, Comic Opera is about a month away from making her first start of the year. She breezed a leisurely three furlongs Friday morning and appears to be on the road to recovering from an infection she had over the winter.

"She's doing great," Brown said. "She's feeling so good and is really full of herself right now. When she dumped her exercise rider the other day, I figured it was time to start getting a little more serious with her training."