09/05/2001 11:00PM

A softer spot for Collect Call

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Collect Call has been competing with, and coming close to, some of the best 3-year-old fillies in the United States. But her trainer, Christopher Paasch, thought it was time to look for an easier spot for his talented filly and that's the main reason that Saturday's $175,000 British Columbia Breeders' Cup Oaks has attracted a horse with Grade 1 credentials.

"What we really want to do is build her confidence up," said Paasch. "She's really starting to come around and if she can win a couple of easy ones we might send her to the Breeders' Cup. She's kind of a late developer and she's just starting to get it all together now."

Collect Call has an impressive resume; a third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, a second in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks, and a win in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel. The one thing lacking is wins. She has only two to her credit, one of which came at Hastings Park, where she prevailed in the Lassie Stakes in her debut last year.

"Her record is actually better than it looks," said Paasch. "She's been a bit unlucky and probably should have won a couple more races by now. Plus she just missed getting third in two Grade 1's [the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks]."

She looks like a standout because of her stakes record, but her dull third as the odds-on favorite in an optional race at Del Mar on Aug. 2 should give her competitors some hope. "She had a couple of excuses for that race," said Paasch. "We tried to take her back and that didn't work out, plus she bled a little. Del Mar is right next to the ocean and the air can be very heavy. Some horses will develop what is called the Del Mar crud. Basically, they just get all stuffed up. Sometimes it's hard to detect and that's probably what caused her to bleed."

Paasch was pretty confident about Saturday's race. "She's trained great since her last race. Her last six-furlong work was excellent. They gave her 1:13 3/5, but I caught her in 1:12 and change and she did it very easily."

She arrived at Hastings Park in good shape and after jogging Thursday morning she was eating heartily and appeared to be extremely sharp, nipping at anyone that came near her stall.

Collect Call has been close to pretty fast fractions in most of her races and she figures to be on or near the lead leaving from post 1. One of the horses she will have to contend with early, Carson City Red, has also been running in Southern California and was claimed for $50,000 out of her last start by John Gunther.

Carson City Red couldn't keep up with graded fillies when she tried them in the Railbird Stakes at Hollywood Park last May, but she has won her last three starts and was very impressive when she worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds at Hastings Park on Wednesday morning. Her last two wins were on the turf and they were her first two tries at a middle distance.

"She's a very sensible filly,' said her trainer Lance Giesbrecht. "She hasn't missed an oat since arriving here and she handled the turns beautifully when she worked the other morning. She hasn't been running against the same type of horses that Collect Call has, but she's been winning and she'll make them run Saturday."

Rule bends for Philosophers Stone

Philosophers Stone must have had a little magic on her side to get into Saturday's Sadie Diamond Futurity. The stakes book, condition book, and nomination forms all state that only 10 horses are allowed to run in 6 1/2-furlong stakes at Hastings Park, but after some quick negotiations by Hastings Park general manager Phil Heard, 11 horses will be allowed to run in the Sadie Diamond. So Philosophers Stone, 11th on the nomination list, is in the race.

"It didn't seem fair to me that an owner who had made all of those payments would get shut out like that," said Heard. "I asked everybody" - Jockeys Guild, Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and the B.C. Racing Commission stewards - "if they would allow 11 horses to run and they all agreed to it."

"I was as surprised as everybody else," said Philsophers Stone's trainer Cindy Krasner. "I had told Michael Jawl [the horse's owner] that she would be on the also-eligible list," said Krasner. "I'm not sure that I agree with it, but I'm happy that she gets to run."

Owner Jeffrey Sengara won the race with Queen of My Nights last year and has two horses in the race, Haunting You and Beautiful Stranger. He wasn't pleased with the decision. "It doesn't seem right that they would change the rules the day entries are taken," he said. "But, there's not much that I can do about it so we'll just have to hope for the best."