09/04/2008 12:00AM

Shippers give Saskatchewan Derby wide-open feel


SASKATOON, Saskatchewan – Saturday’s $25,000 Saskatchewan Derby at Marquis Downs takes on a markedly different feel this year as seven ship-ins arrive to do battle with one local hopeful in what amounts to the most competitive derby field in recent years.

Recent Saskatchewan Derby standouts such as Sin Toro, Paxton Ridge, Wind Dancer, and Noble Dane looked the best on paper and came through with dominant victories against overmatched competition. In a competitive field this year, local runner Gigs will do battle with four entrants from Northlands Park and a trio from Assiniboia Downs in the 1 1/16-mile feature, which closes out the 2008 race season.

The Alberta contingent is headlined by Little Davey, a two-time allowance winner this year and runner-up in the 6 1/2-furlong Westerner Handicap on Canada Day. Since then, Little Davey has struggled in two starts, both at a mile, as he faded badly in the Ky Alta to be last by 27 3/4 lengths and then came home nine lengths back in fifth in his most recent start, which came in an allowance race. A confirmed front-runner, Little Davey will be trying to wire the field.

Working Man Blues was a $50,000 claim out of Hollywood Park in late June and he has made two starts in Western Canada, both stakes races in which he finished fourth. Working Man Blues ran evenly in the Ky Alta and was beaten 16 1/2 lengths. He ran better in the Count Lathum but still was 7 3/4 lengths back at the wire. Working Man Blues will be looking for a stalking trip once again.

Half Mine has two wins and a pair of thirds going a mile and beyond this year. The wins came against maidens and allowance foes, while the two outings in which Half Mine missed the board were in the Alberta Derby and Hoofprint on My Heart.

The trio from Manitoba is topped by Ruckus Rules, a lightly raced son of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. Ruckus Rules won his maiden versus $15,000 claimers but made his next three starts in stakes races, highlighted by a closing second in the Manitoba Derby Trial at the Saskatchewan Derby distance. Most recently, Ruckus Rules was second against allowance foes going 7 1/2 furlongs and was closing stoutly.

From the Hill has a pair of sprint allowance scores in 2008 and was third in the Harry Jeffrey Stakes earlier this summer. He finished five lengths and three positions back of Ruckus Rules in the Trial.

Gigs won his first stakes race here Aug. 16 in the Shortgrass Heritage over a mile. Gigs finished second or third in all four of his other stakes efforts, but this is easily the deepest field he has met.