07/31/2002 11:00PM

Right horse is on wrong track


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer Barb Heads was born in British Columbia and is stabled at Hastings Park. Her father was recently inducted into the B.C. horse racing Hall of Fame, and she is a strong supporter of Thoroughbred racing in B.C. She also likes the concept of the B.C. Cup, in which seven stakes races restricted to B.C.-breds are run on a single day.

However, she wouldn't mind if the B.C. Cup Distaff was run at Emerald Downs instead of Hastings Park. Heads will saddle Always a Dixie in the B.C. Cup Distaff on Monday, and while Always a Dixie will be one of the favorites, if the race were run at Emerald she would be the one to beat.

Always a Dixie has won two of the last three stakes for fillies and mares at Emerald, and might have won the Boeing Handicap July 21 as well if she had gotten out of the starting gate better.

"She hit her hind end when she was leaving the starting gate and it knocked her sideways," Heads said. "She had to be used up early to keep up, and she got a little tired down the lane." Always a Dixie was beaten by only 1 1/2 lengths.

Although Always a Dixie trains at Hastings, her record here isn't nearly as good as it is at Emerald. She has won only one race in six starts here, and her best finish against stakes company was this year in a third to Inish Glora in the Strawberry Morn May 11. Heads said the difference in the make-up of the two tracks has a lot to do with it.

"It's not that Emerald is a mile track and Hastings is a smaller oval," said Heads. "The surface at Hastings has a lot more sand in it and it can get very loose if it's dry. She has a hard time getting hold of it unless there's a lot of water on it."

Heads is hoping for either rain or that the track maintenance crew will use the water truck generously between races Monday.

Heads sent Always a Dixie out for a five-furlong work Wednesday.

"She went great," she said. "She black-lettered in two and change [1:02.60]. The track was a little dead so most of the times were pretty slow."

With Lady's Jewel entered in the Sprint instead of the Distaff, the race takes on a completely different shape. Queen of My Nights should be able to control the tempo and while it's hard to say if she'll go nine-furlongs, her chances just got a lot better. Heads isn't concerned about how the race will be run, though. "Always a Dixie is very versatile," she said. "You can place her anywhere, but I just like to let her run her own race. She likes to settle and she'll try hard. If she can get a hold of it she should be right there."

Heads wasn't pleased with the 122 pounds assigned to Always A Dixie. "I don't see how they can give her 122 pounds when she's only won two stakes races and they give Lord Nelson 121 pounds. He was the Horse of the Year here last year, how many stakes has he won. I know he's running against Kid Katabatic and it's a different race, but still, 122 seems to be out of line."

The likely favorite in the Distaff is Grey Tobe Free. She hasn't been able to beat Always a Dixie at Emerald, but she has won her last two races at Hastings by a combined 14 lengths, and both races were at the Distaff distance of 1 1/8 miles. Grey Tobe Free is trained by Robbie Anderson, who is hoping for a repeat of the 2000 B.C. Cup, when he won both divisions of the Stallion Stakes, with King Jeremy and Grey Tobe Free. While Grey Tobe Free looks like a slight favorite in the Distaff, King Jeremy should be a solid choice to win the Sprint.