06/12/2003 11:00PM

Stratoplan to prep against older horses


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Stratoplan has some growing up to do - and he'll need to do it quickly this weekend.

With the $75,000 Burnaby Breeders' Cup coming up June 28, trainer Rob VanOverschot was looking for a prep race for Stratoplan, who was an impressive winner of a maiden race May 31.

With nowhere else to run, VanOverschot elected to try Stratoplan against older horses in a $35,000 optional race that goes as the ninth race Sunday.

VanOverschot thought enough of Stratoplan to debut him in a stakes race at 2, and Stratoplan finished third to a couple of nice ones. The winner, Illusive Force, another VanOverschot trainee, went on to win the Jack Diamond Futurity and Ascot Graduation, and the second-place finisher, Aquita, won the Sadie Diamond Futurity.

With the Queen's Plate in mind for Illusive Force, VanOverschot needed to put a good work in him before he started his 3-year-old campaign. He decided to work Stratoplan and Illusive Force together before the races April 27, and Stratoplan's stock went way up as he appeared to outwork his stablemate.

When Stratoplan surfaced in a straight maiden race May 18, it wasn't surprising that he was sent off as the solid choice. However, he became agitated during the post parade and burst through the starting gate prior to the race. He was pretty much spent when they finally ran the race, and he finished eighth.

He appeared a lot more relaxed before for his next start, and this time he lived up to his potential with a one-length win that was easier than it looks on paper. He covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.24.

"He's not a crazy horse," said VanOverschot. "He just gets very excited. He just needs a lot more racing."

In Sunday's race, "I'm giving away a lot of experience, but I have a bit of an advantage because I get in with 104 pounds," said VanOverschot, referring to the light weight Stratoplan receives as a 3-year-old running against older horses. "This should set him up perfectly for the Burnaby."

With Illusive Force out of town and Gamblin Caper just a possibility for the Burnaby - it depends on how he runs and comes out of the Alberta Derby this weekend - the race appears to be wide open.

Asked to compare Stratoplan and Illusive Force, VanOverschot said that "talent-wise there's not much difference, but mentally Illusive Force is a lot further along."

Illusive Force is scheduled to work a mile at Woodbine this Monday and will start next Saturday in the $1 million Queen's Plate, which is expected to draw a full field.

* Joining the VanOverschot stable at Woodbine will be Emerald Downs Handicap winner Dee's Love and Captain Des.

"I don't think that Dee's Love will stretch out, and she's eligible for a nonwinners of two, which is worth $68,000 back there," said VanOverschot. "I've also nominated her to the Ontario Damsel Stakes. It's worth $150,000 and is restricted to Canadian-breds."

Elana a'Amour fires off fast work

Elana d'Amour worked a very fast five furlongs Thursday morning in 59.60 seconds, two seconds quicker than the next-fastest work of the day. It was her first work since finishing third to Ema Bovary in the Washington State Legislators May 25 at Emerald, where she reportedly bled.

"We really weren't looking for that fast of a move," said Brian Giesbrecht, who assists his stepfather, trainer Joe Apperloo. "Another horse came by her and she just kind of took off. She came out of it fine, though, and we'll work her again next weekend before she runs in the Brighouse Belles," on June 29.

Giesbrecht also said it was unlikely that they would send Elana d'Amour back to Emerald.

"If Ema Bovary is running, we won't be," he said. "She's a monster. She got into all kinds of trouble and still won for fun."

Jockey agent Kelly back from surgery

Longtime jockey agent Marty Kelly will be back handling the books of Sam Krasner and Frank Fuentes next week. Kelly had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and appears to be on the road to recovery after extensive surgery.

Former clocker and TBC Racing analyst Mike Heads has been subbing for Kelly. He is currently handling calls for Chris Loseth.