04/04/2002 12:00AM

Timely Ruckus no room to err

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CALGARY, Alberta - The 25th running of the Stampede Park Sprint Championship is four weeks away but at least two trainers already have their eyes upon the $40,000 guaranteed handicap.

Saturday's feature, an open allowance for 3-year-olds and upward for a $20,300 purse, drew six entrants, and trainers Ernie Keller and Ron Grieves were most appreciative that the race filled at entries Wednesday morning.

In past seasons, Timely Ruckus and his formidable reputation has scared off opponents to a degree that Keller has on occasion been forced to run in the Stampede Park Sprint off works alone. Not that Timely Ruckus has fared badly - winning the race in 1997, 1998, and 2000, and losing by a head to T J Quigley in 1999.

Last May, Grieves sent out Cash on the Run to upset Timely Ruckus, who finished third after his penchant for acting up in the starting gate probably cost him his chance at a fourth Sprint victory.

There will no margin for error at the break Saturday. Stephan Heiler, rider of Timely Ruckus, knows full well that he will cannot spot a good horse like Cash on the Run ground in the half-mile prep.

At age 9, Timely Ruckus, a son of Bold Executive, appears to have lost little of the natural early foot that has carried him to 22 wins on this circuit and three straight trophies as Alberta's champion sprinter. His connections are hoping he can make it four in a row.

Cash on the Run, who will be ridden by Quincy Welsh, drew immediately inside Timely Ruckus in post 3, and has run well fresh throughout his career. He also has shown a liking for the Stampede Park oval.

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