07/21/2004 11:00PM

Sterling Ace the one to catch

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - How fast they go early should have a big impact on the result of Saturday's seventh race at Hastings, a $20,000 claiming race for 3-year-olds. Sterling Ace figures to be the favorite in the 1 1/16-mile feature, and if he's allowed to set moderate fractions, he could be tough to beat.

Sterling Ace, who is owned and trained by Tom Longstaff, is coming off a game nose win over Eternal Force in a $25,000 sprint July 11. A bay gelding, Sterling Ace has won 5 of his 15 career starts, but he's only gone around three turns once in his career, finishing fourth after forcing the issue most of the way. Felipe Valdez will ride.

Pressure could come from a couple of horses. Golden Mark set quick fractions while breaking his maiden in his second career start July 4, and he drew the rail.

Proud Son, a two-time stakes winner in 2003, also has speed but hasn't been much of a factor in his two starts this year. He was up close for a half-mile before tiring to finish 14 lengths behind Maxwell in the Klondike Handicap June 12, and then was outrun by Columbia Moon in a $50,000 optional sprint July 10. Proud Son has never gone farther than 6 1/2 furlongs, but he's a half-brother to Lucky Son, a very successful marathon horse at Hastings who earned over $190,000.

He's trained by Barb Heads and will be ridden by Chris Loseth.

Just for Deb was well beaten by Sterling Ace July 11. He has the best Beyer Speed Figure at the distance in the field, and it wouldn't be surprising if the race set up for his good late move.