09/25/2003 11:00PM

Sir Pucker, 'Affair' appear top two


WINNIPEG, Manitoba - K-5 Stable's 6-year-old Sir Pucker and 3-year-old Northern Affair each look formidable in the $60,000 Breeders' Gold Cup here on the final day of the meet Sunday.

Sir Pucker and Northern Affair will race as separate betting interests, and they will face five others in the 1 1/8-mile meet championship race for older horses.

Northern Affair has natural speed and will be in front early. He's already proven he can carry it the distance of Sunday's race. When under pressure against older horses, he won the Harry Jeffrey here Aug. 24.

In his last race, the 1 1/16-mile R. J. Speers against older horses, Northern Affair took on stakes winner Deputy Country from the inside and put him away at the top of stretch. The tables could be turned on Sunday, as Deputy Country draws the inside.

Regular rider Mike Iammarino, who has won two straight stakes races aboard Northern Affair, remains in the saddle.

If Northern Affair and Deputy Country duel early, the race sets up for Sir Pucker, who has had two poor trips in a row. That problem should solve itself on Sunday, when leading rider Travis Hightower climbs aboard.

Hightower has been riding live horses all meet, but he has also proven his ability to give his mounts their best chance to win with good trips.

Sir Pucker was in trouble on both turns in his last race, the R. J. Speers, and was checked early and late two starts back in the Wheat City. He is capable of winning this race with a clean trip.

An upset candidate is John Crainer, who always gives his best but will be taking a substantial move up in class. In order for John Crainer to win, Sir Pucker, Deputy Country, and Northern Affair would have to battle early. Tim Gardiner will ride.

Rounding out the field are Nugrayontheblock, Coldstream, and Wild Ruler.