09/16/2004 11:00PM

Socorro County best of foursome


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer Dave Forster will head into the Grade 3, $150,000 British Columbia Breeders' Cup Oaks at Hastings next Saturday with a strong hand. It's possible Forster will enter four fillies in the Oaks, but the way that Socorro County won the Oaks Preview, the other three, Gold Accent, Overact, and Summer Symphony, might be running for second money.

Socorro County lived in the shadow of the sensational Regal Red all summer long, but when Regal Red went to the sidelines with a bruised foot, Socorro County didn't waste any time taking over the top spot in the local 3-year-old filly division. Following a third to Regal Red in the Liberation, Socorro County won the Nanaimo, finished second to Overact in the $100,000 Sonoma Handicap at Northlands, and then blew away the field in the Oaks Preview, drawing away to win by 5 1/2 lengths in a quick time of 1:44.68 over a fast track.

"She's really peaking at the right time," said Teri Forster, wife and assistant to Dave Forster. "She came out of her last race in great shape and she's really been training well since. I think she's just coming into her own. She's gaining weight, gaining confidence, and I couldn't be happier with the way she's going right now."

Robert Skelly picked up the mount on Socorro County when Nicola Wright was lost for the season with an injury, and he also likes the way Socorro County is coming up to the Oaks.

"That was a big race for her at Northlands," he said. "She really likes to run at something and because the pace was so slow I had to move her a little sooner than I would have liked. They set her up nicely in the Oaks Preview and that was a powerful move she put in."

Forster didn't discount the chances of any of the four, and she had an excuse for Overact's last-place finish in the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park on Aug. 28.

"For some reason they loaded her into the starting gate when the other horses weren't ready and she ended up standing in there an awfully long time," she said. "She started to act up and they grabbed her ear, and being the snarky filly that she is, well, she threw a wreck in the gate and she was all skinned up after the race. She's fine, though, and she's also training really well."

Lava Man won't ship north

Trainer Doug O'Neill reported that Lava Man will run in the Pomona Derby at Fairplex on Sept. 25 and won't be shipping to Hastings for the $250,000 B.C. Derby.

"The owners felt that because he's already won at Fairplex and since he looks pretty tough in a $100,000 race, they would rather stay home," he said. "The purse up there is pretty attractive but there's no sense in getting too greedy."

Victory Light preps for B.C. Derby

Victory Light had his final

B.C. Derby prep Friday morning. With Pedro Alvarado aboard he worked five-furlongs in 1:03.40 over a track rated good. His splits for the first quarter and three furlongs were 26.40 seconds, 38.60, and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.40.

Victory Light is trained by Tom Longstaff and is coming off a third-place finish to Rules of War in the Richmond Derby Trial.

Shacane on target for Churchill

According to Mark Cloutier, assistant trainer to his wife, Toni, Shacane came out of his win in an allowance race last Sunday in excellent shape and will make his next start in the Sir Winston Churchill on Sept. 25.

It was Shacane's second start and first win since he won the Premiers in October 2002. He bowed his tendon while training in California and he appears to have responded well to the stem-cell therapy he underwent to fix the problem.

Cloutier said the repaired tendon felt ice cold and there didn't appear to be any sign of a previous injury.

* Trainer Rob VanOverschot has been suspended for 10 days after his urine tested positive for Cocaine Metabolite (benzoylecgonine). VanOverschot is the trainer of B.C. Derby contender Lord Samarai, and it's unclear who will saddle last year's local 2-year-old champ in the race.