07/25/2002 11:00PM

Royal Empress Futurity favorite

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SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - Royal Empress, an impressive winner of her only lifetime start, should be a heavy favorite in the filly division of Saturday's Saskatchewan Futurity at Marquis Downs.

Royal Empress, a $5,200 yearling purchase, faces seven rivals in the $5,000 Futurity, which is restricted to Canadian-bred foals produced by Canadian-owned mares.

Royal Empress, owned by Larry and Gerald Wilson, won the first 2-year-old race of the meet by four lengths in a quick time of 46.40 seconds for a half-mile. Her time becomes all the more impressive as two other baby races of the meeting have been won in 48.20 and 48.60 seconds.

While the Saskatchewan Futurity is at six furlongs, the distance should pose no problem to Royal Empress judging by her bullet-work of 1:01.60 over five furlongs last Saturday.

The main opposition to Royal Empress should come from Star Pegasus and She's Nifty.

Star Pegasus has finished third in both of her career starts, including a 7 1/2-length drubbing by Royal Empress. Tim Moccasin gets the call.

She's Nifty, the $10,000 sales-topper from last fall's Prairie Lily yearling sale, was an even fourth in her only start as the lukewarm favorite. Leading rider Serge Rocheleau picks up the mount.

The colts and geldings split of the Saskatchewan Futurity drew just four entrants. The logical contenders are Quiz the Wizard and Extended Credit, who finished second and third, respectively, in the same race while making their only lifetime starts.

Quiz the Wizard, who was beaten three-quarters of a length, was 1 1/2 lengths clear of Extended Credit.

* The purse for the 1 1/16 mile Saskatchewan Derby, which will be run here Aug. 3, has been raised from $7,500 to $15,000. Nominations close Saturday at 9 p.m. local time.

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