05/16/2004 11:00PM

Sabre's stock up after win

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CALGARY, Alberta - Saw Grass Sabre emerged as a leading contender for the June 19 Alberta Derby following his victory Saturday in the President's Handicap.

A Florida-bred gelding by Sword Dance, Saw Grass Sabre dueled with even-money favorite Fly Esteem through the first quarter and drew away from that rival in the run along the backstretch. Saw Grass Sabre faced no further challenges and cruised home three lengths in front of Ol Fifty, who rallied from last under Rickey Walcott over a tiring surface rated good.

"I was surprised my horse was able to clear that early," said jockey Stephen Heiler, who rode Saw Grass Sabre. "I really think he wants to run farther."

That would be good news for leading trainer Red Smith, who, with the win, extended his lead in the standings.

Saw Grass Sabre paid $10 and completed the six furlongs in 1:13.20.

Ericka's Lass best in stretch

Winnipeg invader Ericka's Lass registered a head victory over local favorite Alta Aire in the Mount Royal on Sunday, in a stretch duel that rates as among the best of the meet.

The two hooked up at the head of the lane, and jockey Mike Iammarino urged Ericka's Lass ahead in the final stride to edge out Walcott on Alta Aire, who had posted early fractions of 22.40 and 46.40 seconds.

Iammarino rode Ericka's Lass to a pair of victories last year at Assiniboia Downs for trainer Emile Corbel.