05/27/2003 11:00PM

'Ruckus' ready to stretch out

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CALGARY, Alberta - Timely Ruckus was voted champion sprinter in Alberta four successive times, from 1998 to 2001, but he lost his crown to Tyko Tycoon last year.

Time seemed to have taken its toll on Timely Ruckus, who turned 10 this January. A recent optional-claiming score at six furlongs, however, sets the stage for Timely Ruckus to stretch out to a mile on Friday, in a $35,000 optional claimer with a $20,800 purse.

Ernie Keller, who has trained Timely Ruckus throughout a marvelous career, admits his horse has lost a step. Keller chose not to run Timely Ruckus in the May 3 Stampede Park Sprint Championship - a race the gelding has won three times - and opted for an optional claimer a day earlier.

While Timely Ruckus may not be able to handle stakes foes these days, the spot Keller selected suited him just fine. Rider Dave Wilson took Timely Ruckus off the pace, a change in tactics that worked well.

Timely Ruckus blew by the pacesetters in the lane to complete the six furlongs in a quick 1:10.40.

The victory pushed the lifetime earnings for Timely Ruckus, an Alberta-bred son of Bold Executive, past $600,000. Wilson, who continues to lead the standings here, retains the mount.

The race runs as the featured eighth on a strong nine-race program. Timely Ruckus drew the rail and faces seven rivals, including the rapid Sweet Drummer, who comes off a pair of front-running sprint victories.

* The first 2-year-old race of the season opens Friday's card, with a field of six competing for a $15,100 purse over 3 1/2 furlongs.