07/15/2005 12:00AM

Stephen's hand forced with Columbia Moon

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer Peter Stephen has won races at a high percentage throughout his career, and part of the reason is his patience. He rarely runs a horse out of line, and if the right spot isn't available for a particular horse, he's willing to wait until a race comes up that suits him.

For the past few weeks, Stephen has been trying to find a race for Columbia Moon. After entering the promising 4-year-old in optional races that didn't fill, Stephen finally ran out of patience, and he has entered Columbia Moon in a non-conditioned allowance race Sunday.

Columbia Moon won both of his starts last year, but after a brilliant performance in a 6 1/2-furlong $50,000 optional sprint in July, when he went 1:16 and change, he was sent home for the rest of the year.

"He had chips in his knee, and so we gave him the rest of the year off," said Stephen. "The chips have been removed and we decided to take our time in bringing him back. He's been training very well, and I expect him to run a decent race. He's a nice horse. There are a lot of nice horses he'll be running against Sunday. I was really hoping to bring him back in an easier spot."

Stephen is hoping for a good effort Sunday, and if all goes well he will likely wheel Columbia Moon back in the British Columbia Cup Sprint on Aug. 1.

"We've been pointing to the Sprint, but we would have liked to have been able to run him before this," he said. "I would rather he had a bit more time between races, but the only other option we had was to ship him out of town, and we really didn't want to do that."

Stephen was probably surprised to see Quiet Cash in the same race. Quiet Cash is aiming for the $75,000 Great Canadian Stakes July 31, and his trainer, Terry Jordan, decided a race would be just as good as a couple of works. Quiet Cash finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Lieutenant Governors' on July 1.

"He should be pretty tough," said Jordan. "If Columbia Moon can go 1:15 and change, then he'll beat my horse, but that's probably what it's going to take."

Lord Nelson getting ready

Lord Nelson will be hard-pressed to make it back for B.C. Cup Day. He has been out of training for over a month, and he went back into training this weekend.

"He's coming off of a route, so he was pretty fit when he went out of training," said his trainer, Dino Condilenios. "We'll work him before the race and see how fit he actually is. If he's not ready, we'll just wait until he is."

Henson armed for Cup Day

Trainer Steve Henson is looking forward to B.C. Cup Day. Henson will saddle the probable favorite in the fillies division of the Stallion Stakes, Regal Pusher. He also has a strong contender for the colts division with He's So Regal.

He's So Regal was recently purchased by Jeffrey Sengara and was transferred to Henson's barn. He's So Regal finished second to Timely Passion in a $50,000 optional sprint, and in his most recent start he finished seventh in the Jim Coleman Province June 17.

"I like him," said Henson. "He's got some potential, and the colts division appears to be coming up pretty weak."

Henson could be correct about the colts division coming up light. Alabama Rain, who would be the odds-on favorite, might skip the Stallion Stakes, according to his trainer, Lance Giesbrecht. Alabama Rain may ship to Alberta to prepare for the $300,000 Canadian Derby.

If Alabama Rain is not in the field, the Stallion Stakes should attract a full field of mostly allowance and high-priced claiming horses. The only other stakes winner whose connections are looking at the Stallion Stakes is No Sox Fox, and he has never won going farther than 6 1/2 furlongs.

Richard Yates, who bred and had been the owner and trainer of He's So Regal, was pleased with the sale and that He's So Regal was going to Henson.

"As the breeder, I'll get bonus money, and I wouldn't have sold him if he wasn't going to a good trainer's barn," he said.

Snow fined for positive

Trainer Mel Snow was fined $5,000 when a horse he trains, Actxotic, tested positive for phenylbutazone, commonly know under the brand name Butazolidin, following her win in a bottom-level claiming race July 1.

According to senior steward Keith Smith, Snow had a choice among a 30-day suspension, a 15-day suspension combined with a $2,500 fine, or the $5,000 fine.

"Normally for a Class 4 drug violation he would have had the option of a 15-day suspension or $2,500 fine," said Smith. "But it was his second violation within a year."

Snow accepts the blame for the positive test, but he is appealing the severity of the fine.

"We were treating another horse, and there must have been some kind of mix-up," he said. "But I think the fine is too severe."

Snow is the head of the local division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and he has been lobbying the Canadian Pari Mutuel Agency to change the rules regarding the use of phenylbutazone in Canada.

"Throughout North America, there's a big push for uniform rules and testing, and we think that Bute is one of the fundamental types of medications that should be universally regulated," he said. "In most states in the U.S. there are quantitative tests for Bute, and we think it should be the same for Canada."