10/10/2003 12:00AM

Roscoe Pito could get loose on lead


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Roscoe Pito should have things his own way when he faces seven others in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Premier's at Hastings, and if he can handle the taxing 11-furlong distance, he will be very tough to beat.

Roscoe Pito has won his last four races and a win in the Premier's would lock up horse of the year honors in British Columbia. He was an easy winner of both the Emerald Downs Breeders' Cup Derby and the British Columbia Derby. In both instances, he controlled the pace from the start. There doesn't appear to be a lot of other speed in the field, and if the others let Roscoe Pito get away with moderate fractions, they probably aren't going to catch him.

"I'm not crazy about the distance but I think he'll go that far," trainer John Snow said. "He's trained beautifully since the B.C. Derby, and if it comes up muddy, I think it will help him carry his speed the mile and three-eighths. He broke his maiden in the mud, and he loves to train over a wet-track, so let it rain."

Leading rider Pedro Alvarado will be aboard the 3-year-old Roscoe Pito.

Futural, who races for Kim Hart and is trained by Steve Bryant, heads a group of older horses in the field of eight. He finished second in the 2002 Premier's and is coming off a sharp win in the Sir Winston Churchill. Futural has enough speed to stay close during the early stages, and he's proven at the distance. Futural was once one of the top handicap horses in North America, and with renewed confidence from his win in the Churchill, he poses a major threat.

"He's feeling great right now," assistant trainer Marilee Lenz said. "He worked a very strong half-mile on Wednesday, and he came out of it bucking and squealing. He's ready."

Royal Place might be the one with the best chance of pulling off an upset. He has good tactical speed, but didn't get to use it after breaking poorly in the B C. Derby. He did finish full of run, however, while placing fifth, and according to trainer Harold Barroby, Royal Place should relish the chance to go 11 furlongs.

"He's certainly bred to go the distance," Barroby said. "He's by a Cox's Ridge stallion and is out of a Kris S. mare. He gets in with a light weight and hopefully he'll break a little better than he did in the derby."