05/22/2008 12:00AM

Soldiers Return steps up after claim

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There are no stakes races this weekend at Hastings, but the feature race Saturday is an excellent betting race. The $20,000 claiming race for 3-year-olds and up going 6 1/2 furlongs drew nine horses and goes as the ninth race.

Soldiers Return is stepping up after being claimed for $11,000 by trainer Steve Henson on behalf of Whieldon Throughbred on May 11, and he could go off as the favorite. A 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding, Soldiers Return is shooting for his third straight win, and he has been a much-improved horse in his two starts this year.

In his initial start at the meet, he was a very impressive winner over Earl's Diamond in an $8,000 claiming race going six furlongs April 27. In his latest victory, he stalked the pace before drawing off on the stretch turn to coast to a six-length win over Alferrari. His final time of 1:16.80 is the second-fastest for the distance at the current meet.

Pedro Alvarado rides Soldiers Return.

Alert N Wise could be dangerous if he gets a better trip than he had in his initial start of the year in a $25,000 claiming race May 10. Trained by Nancy Betts, Alert N Wise lost a lot of ground when he went five-wide around the first turn. He never quit trying, though, and he ended up finishing fourth.

When in Rome should appreciate running over a traditional dirt track at Hastings. Based at Woodbine for his whole career, When in Rome has won five races, but none over the Polytrack there.