07/01/2004 11:00PM

Royal Place and Lord Nelson put on a show

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The thrilling stretch duel between victorious Royal Place and Lord Nelson in the Grade 3 Lieutenant Governors' on Thursday afternoon capped a great day of racing at Hastings. Also on display on Canada Day were the considerable talents of Regal Red. A 3-year-old filly, she won the Liberation Handicap by a widening 5 1/2 lengths and her final time of 1:43.73 for 1 1/16 miles was a second and a half faster than it took 3-year-old Tobe Suave to win the Burnaby Breeders' Cup on the same day.

The Lieutenant Governors' was certainly the highlight of the day, and both Royal Place and Lord Nelson displayed plenty of grit, with Royal Place winning by a neck. Both horses had perfect trips, and the four pounds that 123-pound highweight Lord Nelson gave to Royal Place might have been the difference.

Yougottawanna was sent off as the 6-5 favorite, but he is a front-runner and had to check a couple of times leaving the gate and never really got into the race. He was bumped by Mister Mane Man, who clipped the heels of Royal Place shortly after the start and unseated his rider, Nicola Wright. According to her agent, Leilani Collins, Wright will be out for at least three months with a broken kneecap as a result of the spill.

Royal Place, who is owned by K. K. Sangara, had broken poorly in his two previous starts at Hastings, but he left there running this time and with Gerry Olguin taking a firm hold he stalked a stubborn Roscoe Pito, who set pretty quick fractions of 22.80, 46.63, and 1:11.22. Olguin forced the issue at the quarter pole and Royal Place took the lead just before turning for home.

He never got a breather, though, as he was immediately collared by Lord Nelson and the race was on. Lord Nelson looked like he was going to win the battle and actually took a short lead in midstretch, but Royal Place dug in and came back on to win, posting a very good final time of 1:49.08 for the nine furlongs.

"I had a perfect trip," said Olguin. "The horse has a very big heart and he wasn't going to let anyone go by him once he made the lead. He always felt comfortable sitting just off of the front-runner and I just wanted to make sure that the leader didn't get away from us."

It was the first trip to Hastings for Rafael Becerra, trainer of Royal Place, and he plans on coming back to the Pacific Northwest soon.

"K. K. wanted to run him at his home track, and it turned out great," Becerra said. "We're going to ship him back to California tonight and then we'll get him ready for his next start, which will be in the Longacres Mile. It's been a great trip and I'm sure we'll be back."

Trainer Dino Condilenios was proud of the effort given by Lord Nelson.

"He ran as hard as he could and I still don't think he should have been giving those kind of horses that much weight," he said.

Tobe Suave runs big

"Awesome, I'm in heaven," was the way Ross McLeod described the win by Tobe Suave in the Burnaby Breeders' Cup on Thursday. Tobe Suave is the first horse that McLeod, who is the CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp., the parent company of Hastings, has ever raced.

Tobe Suave came from mid-pack to post a 1 1/4-length decision over late-running Future Flash. Final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:45.25 According to his trainer, Steve Bryant, Tobe Suave will make his next start in the Seattle Slew Breeders' Cup at Emerald Downs July 31. Bryant has also mapped out a trip to Edmonton for the $250,000 Canadian Derby Aug. 28 and he'll return to Hastings for the B.C. Derby Sept. 26.

Maxwell was made the 3-2 favorite in the Burnaby, but he didn't run a jump and was eased by jockey Frank Fuentes.

"It's a mystery to me," said Maxwell's trainer, Condilenios. "I can't find anything wrong with him. He ate up and he's jumping around this morning. Something will probably surface but for now it's very confusing."

This time she had to try

Regal Red showed in the Liberation Handicap that she'll easily handle a middle distance, but for the first time in her career she was actually ridden hard by her rider, Frank Fuentes. Only for a brief period, though.

"She didn't seem that eager to go past the leaders at the quarter pole," said Fuentes. "I was a little nervous about using the whip, but it didn't bother her when I tapped her, and once she cleared, she was gone."

Regal Red's trainer, Robbie Anderson, said that she will make her next start in the B.C. Cup Stallion Stakes Aug. 2.