08/30/2001 11:00PM

Stiff test for Kat Dancer

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A full field of 11 sophomores, all searching for their first win in an added-money event, will square off in Sunday's $35,000 Richmond Derby Trial at Hastings Park. The first few finishers are likely to make their next start in the $200,000 B.C. Derby on Sept. 29.

Kat Dancer has never won beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, but he could be favored in the 1 1/16-mile Derby Trial off his second-place finish to I'm Free in the Mr. Prime Minister Stakes Aug. 19.

Kat Dancer has won three of his five starts, and the only time he went unplaced was in the 1 1/16-mile Province Stakes July 15.

"I'm hoping it was the wet track and not the distance," said trainer and part owner Rosann Anderson. A son of Katahoula County, Kat Dancer has excellent tactical speed and should get a good look at a pace that figures to be hotly contested. Robert Skelly rides.

Trainer Frank Barroby has entered Smokin Finish, Keyron, and Irish Pleasure. All three would appear to have a chance in this wide-open event. Smokin Finish forced a blistering pace in the Mr. Prime Minister before finishing a tired fourth. He won a $50,000 optional sprint by 6 1/2 lengths in his previous outing, and in his only attempt at 8 1/2 furlongs, he finished second to third-place Canadian Derby finisher Thurston. Keyron won a $20,000 claiming race at 1 1/16 miles in his last start, and the quick pace should help set up his good late move. Irish Pleasure hasn't won going this far, but he's been stakes placed at the distance three times.