09/23/2009 11:00PM

Slim edge to La Rocca in Oaks


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Invaders La Rocca and Ochoa will take on local star Tierra Del Feugo in the $125,000 British Columbia Oaks at Hastings on Saturday. The 1 1/8-mile feature drew eight horses and goes as the seventh race. Also on the card is the $50,000 Delta Colleen for older fillies and mares, featuring a match-up between Summer Song and Against the Sky.

La Rocca could end up being the favorite in the Oaks. Trained by Terry Jordan, La Rocca easily handled Ochoa when they met in the $75,000 Sonoma Stakes at Northlands Park on Aug. 23. Under pressure while setting honest fractions, La Rocca drew off when challenged by Ochoa at the top of the stretch to post a 2 1/4-length win. Jordan is pleased with the way La Rocca has trained since arriving here, especially her bullet five-furlong move in 1:01.20 on Sept. 17.

"It was a nice move for her and I think she's improved off of her win in the Sonoma," said Jordan. "It's going to take a nice filly to beat her."

Leading rider Fernando Perez will be aboard for the first time.

Ochoa, trained by Floyd Arthur, took a big step forward when she came back to beat older fillies and mares in a one-mile optional $40,000 claiming race at Northlands on Sept. 6, and may have improved enough to turn the tables on La Rocca. With Rickey Walcott aboard, Ochoa made a strong move from off the pace to win going away and she should have an honest pace to work with on Saturday.

Walcott, the leading rider at Northlands, retains the mount.

Trainer Barbara Heads has tightened the screws a bit on Tierra Del Feugo, who was almost upset by Miss Kay Dee Raine in the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Heads had backed off of her after she romped in the B.C. Cup Dogwood in her previous start.

"She had a bit of mucus after she worked before her last race so she might not have been on top of her game," said Heads. "She is going better than ever right now."

At 62, jockey Alan Cuthbertson is still going strong and he is hoping to win the Oaks with Miss Kay Dee Raine and also the Grade 3, $275,000 British Columbia Derby with Jersey Town on Sunday.

Trained by Gary Saitz, Miss Kay Dee Raine could improve after narrowly losing to Tierra Del Feugo in her first try going around three turns.