04/24/2002 12:00AM

Tecate on track for Jenkins

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CALGARY, Alberta - Richard Hamel got off to a slow start in defense of his 2001 Stampede Park riding crown but served notice last weekend that he is back in form.

Hamel scored a hat trick on Friday and came back to win four races on Sunday, including an upset score in an allowance prep for the May 5 M.R. Jenkins Memorial with Tecate.

Tecate, a 6-year-old owned by Geoff Smith, was sent off at 6-1 in a field of four fillies and mares. Tecate trailed her field early in the six-furlong prep while the 7-10 favorite, Brighton Belle, rattled off fractions of 23.20 and 45.60 seconds under Ron Blinston.

Brighton Belle held a two-length lead a furlong out but shortened her stride noticeably in the lane. Real Simard had A Ray of Magic in position to make the first run at the leader in upper stretch, but it was Tecate, under a perfectly timed move from Hamel, who closed best of all with a three-wide move.

Tecate, timed in 1:12.40, finished a half-length in front of A Ray of Magic; Brighton Belle was three-quarters of a length back in third.

Trainer Dale Saunders, whose stable has warmed up after a slow start, won the one-mile Ken Pearson Memorial and the 1 1/16-mile City of Edmonton Distaff with Tecate last year.

The 2002 Pearson, scheduled for the May 20 holiday Monday program, was presumably the goal for the stretch-running Tecate, but her sprint score puts her into the spotlight for the six-furlong Jenkins.

Tecate should be joined in the $40,000 Jenkins by her rivals from Sunday's race plus Alberta's 2001 champion 3-year-old filly Little Lolitta and Golden Remark, who won the Duchess of York last June.

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