09/09/2004 12:00AM

Rules of War true derby threat


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Rules of War stamped himself as a legitimate British Columbia Derby candidate with a solid win in the 1 1/16-mile Richmond Derby Trial last Monday at Hastings.

A California-bred gelding trained by Rob Gilker, Rules of War will head into the $250,000 B.C. Derby on Sept. 26 off two straight wins. The way Rules of War was drawing away from his rivals in the Trial, he shouldn't have any trouble negotiating the 1 1/8-mile derby distance.

Rules of War couldn't have had a better trip in the Trial, as he stalked a decent pace and then took control of the race at the top of the stretch.

It was the first stakes win at the meet for jockey Robert Ramirez, who arrived here in mid-season.

"He ran a big race," said Ramirez. "Rob told me to try and get him to relax and do the best I could to keep the dirt out of his face. He broke sharply but he rated nicely when I took a hold of him, and we were far enough back and wide enough so that the dirt didn't bother him. He finished so strong that I don't think he'll have any trouble going a mile and an eighth."

It was only the fifth lifetime start for Rules of War, who was claimed out of his debut race for $15,000 by the Lucky 8 Racing Stables. Included in the eight people that make up the stable is former jockey Tom Wolski. He currently writes a column for the Province newspaper and also hosts a weekly television show devoted to horse racing, "The Sport of Kings."

"I never thought he would be this good of a horse," said Wolski. "I was pretty happy when he broke his maiden for $25,000 and a bit surprised when he won a $50,000 optional race. But he looks like the real deal and it should be fun heading into the derby."

Gilker said Rules of War came out of his race in excellent shape.

"He devoured his grain that night and then devoured his breakfast before any of the other horses the next morning," Gilker said. "We're carrying on and looking forward to running him in the derby."

Victory Light was sent off as the favorite, but after making a bid at the quarter pole, he tired to finish third.

"I was really pleased with the effort," said his trainer, Tom Longstaff. "He really needed the race and I expect he'll move forward in the derby."

Lord Nelson gets rest of year off

Lord Nelson's win in Monday's S.W. Randall Plate was his last start for the year. The 7-year-old Lord Nelson has been plagued by tender feet throughout his career and with 3 wins and 2 seconds from 5 starts, his trainer, Dino Condilenios, said he has done enough this season.

"There's more heat is showing up in his feet," said Condilenios. "I don't want to push him, so we'll send him home and bring him back for another go at it next year."

Lord Nelson has earned $116,528 this season and has a career total of $572,212.

Forster may have four for Oaks

Trainer David Forster appears to have Socorro County peaking at the right time. With Robert Skelly aboard, Socorro County dominated her rivals in the Oaks Preview last Sunday and looks like the one to beat in the Grade 3, $150,000 B.C. Breeders' Cup Oaks on Sept. 25.

"She just keeps improving," said Forster. "She seems to take another step forward each time she runs."

Forster could have four horses in the Oaks. Along with Socorro County, Forster is considering running Gold Accent, the second-place finisher in the Oaks Preview; Summer Symphony, who finished fourth; and Overact, who beat Socorro County in the $100,000 Sonoma Stakes at Northlands Park in her last start.

"At least we'll have them surrounded," quipped Forster.

Another near-miss for 'Wind'

It seems the times they aren't a changing for Blowin in the Wind, another Forster-trained horse. A 5-year-old gelding, Blowin in the Wind once again came within a head of becoming a stakes winner when he just missed to Lord Nelson in the Randall Plate.

He has banked more than $191,000 in his career, but could have earned much more. One more jump and he would have won the 2002 B.C. Derby and also the Premiers last year.

"And I would be a lot richer," said Forster, who is also Blowin in the Wind's owner.

California bettors coming soon

The mutuel handle at Hastings should increase substantially when California begins wagering on the Hastings card on Saturday.

"It's very close," said Michael Brown, Hastings vice president and chief operating officer. "There are just a couple of minor details to be worked out. Hopefully, we'll have everything in place by Saturday, but right now I can't guarantee that."

California wagered into the Hastings Friday night pools back in 1998, and based on those figures, it's likely the overall live handle will increase by 25 to 30 percent.