06/25/2003 12:00AM

Simard eyes Derby on Taiaslew

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EDMONTON, Alberta - Real Simard has forged a reputation as one of the top riders in western Canada since climbing aboard his first mount in 1986.

This year he arrived at Northlands Park for the summer meet as the most envied rider in the jocks' room, as the pilot of 3-year-old sensation Taiaslew.

Taiaslew has been unbeatable since he arrived in Alberta as 2-year-old, and Simard is the jockey of choice for trainer Greg Tracy.

For the 38-year-old Simard, a native of Peace River, Alberta, the situation brings back memories of 1998, when he rode A Fleets Dancer to a Canadian Derby win.

Based on what he has seen so far, he says that everything is on schedule for a return engagement.

"He's been running really good all year," said Simard, "and I wouldn't say that he's gotten better each time out, but he's as honest as they come."

Simard knows what it takes to win the Canadian Derby, the most grueling race in western Canada, but until the horses cross the finish line on Aug. 23 there is always a question about handling the 1 3/8-mile Derby distance.

Right now, the plan is for Taiaslew to take one step at a time, beginning with the $40,000 Ky Alta Stakes at 1 1/16 miles July 18 and continuing with the 1 5/16-mile Count Lathum on Aug. 2.

The Derby distance, said Simard, "will be a bit of a concern for the trainer, and that's always the talk leading up to the race.

"It's a long distance for a 3-year-old, and hopefully he can go that far when the time comes. But I don't really think it's going to be a problem."