09/21/2004 12:00AM

Strike Em Hard heads west for B.C. Derby

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Wholelottabourbon would be seeking his third stakes win if he runs in the Swynford.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Dave Cotey has never been shy about shipping horses to western Canada, and he will continue that tradition when he sends out Strike Em Hard in Sunday's $250,000 British Columbia Derby at Hastings.

Strike Em Hard is slated to leave Woodbine early Friday morning and will meet his groom, Paul Eccleston, at Hastings.

Cotey and Constant Montpellier, Strike Em Hard's regular rider, will be flying out to Vancouver on Saturday evening.

Strike Em Hard will be the third starter for Cotey in the nine-furlong B.C. Derby. Pants N Kisses finished sixth last year, while Stage Classic ran fourth in 2001.

Cotey also shipped to Vancouver for the 2002 British Columbia Oaks, where Lady Shari finished fifth as the odds-on choice.

"This horse is doing great," said Cotey, who had watched Strike Em Hard work five furlongs in 1:02.20 here Monday with Montpellier aboard. "He's set up to run a real good race."

An Ontario-bred gelding, Strike Em Hard is winless in seven starts this year but Cotey believes his earlier performances were compromised by a blood disorder.

Strike Em Hard came to life in midsummer, finishing a closing second to subsequent Canadian Derby winner Organ Grinder in a second-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. He ran with blinkers in that race for the first time since his seasonal bow in May.

Then, after running eighth when switched to turf for the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Stakes, Strike Em Hard raced in an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles and finished a very close third. The runner-up there, Parose, is a multiple stakes winner of more than $1 million.

Strike Em Hard earned his two best Beyer Speed Figures in the July 25 allowance and the Aug. 28 optional claimer, getting a 93 and a 90.

"Ever since we put blinkers on him and his blood got up a bit, he's run two nice dirt races," said Cotey. "Constant has remarked a couple of times on how much stronger he's been.

"He's a very calm horse, too. He never gets excited over anything; he should be a good horse to ship."

Moonshine Justice forced to rest

Cotey reports that Moonshine Justice, the leader of the 2-year-old colt and gelding division with three stakes wins and earnings of $283,914, will not race again this season.

"I sent him over to the clinic to be scanned recently, and he had a real hot spot on his left shin," explained Cotey. "He has the start of a stress fracture there."

Cotey had hoped Moonshine Justice could prove himself going long to enhance his case for a Sovereign Award, but Moonshine Justice now will have to rest on his laurels.

Moonshine Justice has been sent to nearby Huntington Stud Farm, which Cotey uses as his offtrack base.

"He'll be a nice horse next year," said Cotey. "I'll give him some rest, and start him back up there in January."

Wholelottabourbon may run in Swynford

Wholelottabourbon, who put together back-to-back wins here in the six-furlong Colin and 6 1/2-furlong Silver Deputy, breezed four furlongs in 48.20 seconds on the main track Monday and could be looking for the stakes hat trick in Saturday's seven-furlong Swynford.

Fort Erie-based Francine Villeneuve, who has ridden Wholelottabourbon in each of his four starts, has relocated to Florida for the winter. David Clark worked Wholelottabourbon on Monday and will be his new rider.

Chasing the Fox adds blinkers

Cotey also has a possible participant for the $125,000 Swynford in Chasing the Fox, who was beaten a head last time out in the six-furlong Juvenile at Fort Erie.

"He ran really green last time," said Cotey, who will be equipping Chasing the Fox with blinkers for his next start.

Chasing the Fox was making just his second start in the Juvenile after finishing a closing third over 6 1/2 furlongs when in for a $50,000 claiming price here.

Trainer Wansborough dies

Martin Wansborough, a longtime trainer on the Ontario circuit, died at age 50 last Sunday following a lengthy illness.

Born in England, Wansborough came to Canada in the 1960's and started out on the racetrack in 1969 as a groom and an exercise rider.

Wansborough worked for prominent trainers such as Gil Rowntree, Mort Hardy, and Frank Merrill. He later was an assistant to trainers Herb Schnitzler and Conrad Belaire before going out on his own in the early 1980's.

The best horse Wansborough trained was Synchronized, who won Aqueduct's Busher and Laurel's Wide Country for George Yemec's Highview Farm in 1999.

A funeral service was scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Ward Funeral Home, 2035 Weston Road in Weston.