10/14/2004 11:00PM

Royal Place has excuses

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Contention runs deep in the Grade 3, $100,000 Premiers at Hastings on Sunday. Most of the 11 horses entered appear to have a legitimate chance at winning, but they will have to beat the likely favorite and highweight at 121 pounds, Royal Place. He is certainly vulnerable, though. He has never won going 1 3/8 miles, and in his last two starts he has finished out of the money.

Royal Place, who will be ridden by Pedro Alvarado, won the Grade 3 Lieutenant Governors the last time he raced at Hastings and can certainly be forgiven for his last two races. He drew post position 11 in the Longacres Mile, and, not surprisingly, had a wide trip. He was also bumped coming into the stretch when he appeared to be making a belated move.

Royal Place also had a brutal trip in the Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational at Fairplex on Sept. 26. He seemed to be in a perfect spot along the rail but was wheeled out to contest a quick pace while going three wide around the second turn. He then dropped out of it coming out of the turn, and when it looked like he wanted to get back into the race, he was forced to check at the five-sixteenths pole. He never quit running, though, and closed ground in the stretch to finish fourth. He shipped up to trainer Harold Barroby's barn last week.

"He probably should have won last year's Premier's," said Barroby. "But he broke poorly and then got shut off turning for home. He's very sharp right now, and I was very pleased with his half-mile work here on Monday," a 48.80 second workout.

Royal Place has good tactical speed and should get a perfect stalking trip just off of Metatron, who has to be questionable at the distance. Metatron has tremendous speed and set very fast fractions when he won the 1 1/8-mile Sir Winston Churchill on Sept. 25. Jockey Chad Hoverson will have to try and slow Metatron down for him to have any chance of carrying his speed this far.

Beau Brass and Shacane are the only two horses who have won at the distance, but Illusive Force won the 1 5/16-mile Westerner at Northlands Park, and he also finished second to Beau Brass in the 1 3/8-mile Speed to Spare.

Mr. Makah finished third in the Longacres Mile, and according to his assistant trainer, Kay Cooper, "He's kind of a plodder and should handle the distance."