08/15/2007 12:00AM

Taylor's Route more potential than proven


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer Pete Gregory won the B.C. Derby two years in a row with Ever Steady in 1991 and Bolulight in 1992, and he is hoping that a horse he recently brought to Hastings, Taylor's Route, is good enough to win the track's most prestigious race.

Ever Steady and Bolulight were already proven stakes horses when Gregory picked them out for Empire Farms in the early 1990s. Both horses went off as heavy favorites in the Grade 3 derby, and Bolulight's 12-length win in 1992 was one of the most impressive performances by any 3-year-old ever at Hastings. He validated his powerful victory when he went on to win the Longacres Mile as a 4-year-old.

On the other hand, Taylor's Route is still eligible for an entry-level allowance, and he'll need a big effort in a $50,000 optional race on Friday to show Gregory that he's capable of competing with what figures to be a very tough group of horses in the $250,000 B.C. Breeders' Cup Derby on Sept. 23.

"We knew Ever Steady and Bolulight were good enough, but we're just hoping this time," said Gregory. "Everyone wants a good 3-year-old these days, and unless you're going to spend a million dollars it's impossible to buy a horse like Bolulight now. And you're not going to spend that kind of money to win the B.C. Derby."

Taylor's Route was purchased by Sanduz Stables for what Gregory termed a "lot less" than Empire Farms paid for Bolulight and Ever Steady. He's coming off a second-place finish in a seven-furlong $40,000 starter race at Hollywood Park on June 30, where he earned an 86 Beyer Speed Figure. That's the best career figure of any 3-year-old currently at Hastings.

Sir Gallovic earned an 81 Beyer Figure for his win in a 1 1/16-mile unconditioned allowance race Aug. 5, and Wind Storm also earned an 81 sprinting. Next in line is Ookashada, who was given a 79 for his easy win in the B.C. Cup Stellar's Jay.

"One of the reasons we bought him was that his Beyer Figures got higher as the races got longer," said Gregory. "He ran poorly when he went a mile and sixteenth on turf, but he's really not bred for grass, and hopefully it was just a case of him not handling turf."

One concern that some handicappers might have about Taylor's Route going into Friday's race is that he hasn't raced since June 30, and only has one work showing since he ran. Gregory sent him out to work four furlongs in 50 seconds July 29.

"Usually when they come up from California they're wound up pretty tight," said Gregory. "Instead of putting more pressure on them I like to back off a little bit, and it's worked well in the past. He certainly seems like he's fit enough, and his trainer down there didn't work him all that much between races anyway."

Gregory did express some concern about how he came out of his half-mile work, though.

"He bruised a foot," he said. "If the race was a few days earlier we probably wouldn't have entered him. But with entering Sunday for Friday I figured we had time to get it worked out, and he seems fine now."

If Taylor's Route does run a big race Friday, Gregory said he would look at the Richmond Derby Trial as a possible next start.

"If he doesn't turn out to be a derby horse, well, that's fine, because he didn't cost that much and I think he'll be a handy horse down the road," said Gregory.

Should he stay or should he go?

Ookashada, who is trained by Toni Cloutier, could make his next start in the Derby Trial.

His connections are still looking at the Canadian Derby and Emerald Downs Derby as possible next races for Ookashada, but according to assistant trainer Mark Cloutier, staying home is an attractive option. In his last start, Ookashada was an easy winner of the Aug. 6 Stellar's Jay.

"We want him to peak for the B.C. Derby, so it might be better to keep him here instead of going out of town," he said. "He was a little flat when he won the Chris Loseth, but he was fighting for it and maybe it had something to do with the trip to Alberta for the Alberta Derby. We scoped him and he did have some mucus. It's also possible his immune system was down from the trip. We got it all cleared up and he ran a much better race on B.C. Cup Day."

Ookashada was good enough to win the Chris Loseth Handicap by a half-length over Bad Sneakers, but he was all out and he barely held on. In the Stellar's Jay, he made a strong move from slightly off the pace and finished full of run to easily handle Bad Sneakers. It was probably the most impressive race for Ookashada, and considering that he's won five stakes races and was the top 2-year-old in B.C. last year, that's saying a lot.

"He really ran well, and it was nice to see how much the best he was," said Cloutier. "We're really happy with him right now, so we're just hemming and hawing about taking him out of town right before the race we've been pointing to all year."