07/13/2006 11:00PM

Tough call, but Wilson picks 'Sophie'

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - For the past couple of weeks, jockey agent Herb Ollive has been trying to convince Janet Armstrong, who trains Sophie's Trophy, and Barb Heads, the trainer of Excited Miss, to take different paths with their respective 3-year-old fillies. Ollive, who books mounts for Dave Wilson, was hoping that one of them would run in the $100,000 Northlands Oaks on July 22 instead of squaring off against each other in the Emerald Downs Handicap at Hastings on Sunday. Ollive was unsuccessful in his attempts, so he had to make a tough choice on which filly Wilson would ride Sunday.

"It seemed like a good idea," he said of running at Northlands. "But neither wanted to ship all the way to Edmonton. We went with Sophie's Trophy. Davey worked her all spring, and right from day one he thought she was a very special filly.

"She overcame a lot of adversity when she won in Emerald," Ollive said, referring to the Irish Day Handicap on June 25. "And she's been training well since she came back home. I've lost a little sleep over this, though. Excited Miss is a pretty nice filly."

Ollive, 49, was one of the top jockeys in Alberta before he was forced to retire from riding because of injuries in 1990. He won the 1979 B.C. Derby and Premiers on Pole Position, one of the best horses who ever raced here. Pole Position carried 130 pounds in the derby before it became a scale-weight race.

"It was two different spills just about a year apart that made me quit riding," said Ollive. "The first one did in my back and the second took care of my knee."

The first jockey Ollive booked mounts for was Chris Loseth, who is the all-time leading rider at Hastings. Wilson began his career under Ollive's wing, and other than the time Ollive took off to work in the oil supply business in Alberta, he has been with him ever since. Ollive returned to Hastings this year after three years in Alberta.

"Things were starting to decline here and I thought I would give the oil business a shot," he said. "There was a lot of heavy lifting and it really didn't suit me. Plus with the promise of slots, things are starting to pick up here."

Ollive has been very successful as an agent. Under Ollive, Wilson was the leading rider as an apprentice in 1994 and 1995, and as a journeyman four times. Ollive also books mounts for Jorge Espitia and Anderson Ward.

Trainer believes No Ka Oi will step up

On paper, the Emerald Downs looks like a two-horse race. Trainer Rob Gilker has a different view of the race, and he thinks No Ka Oi has a big shot. She finished fifth, 3 1/2 lengths behind Sophie's Trophy, in the Irish Day.

"She got cut off or she might have won," said Gilker. "Plus she got a lot out of the race, and she should be able to make the lead pretty easily. I think she's ready for a big effort."

Two promising 3-year-olds in sprint

The eighth race on Sunday's card, a $50,000 optional claiming race for 3-year-olds going 6 1/2 furlongs, drew a couple of horses that appear to have a lot of potential.

Luhuk's Dancer and Undersecretary are both coming off impressive wins in maiden special weight races, and their trainers think they could be stakes horses in the future.

"I'm very excited about Luhuk's Dancer," said Toni Cloutier. "He got wiped out leaving the gate in his first start and still ran a good race. I wasn't surprised by the way he won his next start, and I like the way he's maturing. We had a hard time getting him comfortable at the gate, but the gate crew did a great job with him and now he's fine there."

Undersecretary is a half-brother to the sensational Regal Red. He's been a slow learner but appears to be putting it all together now, and he looked good winning his last race from just off the pace. "He's still a bit green, but he's coming around," said trainer Robbie Anderson. "He has a lot of talent, and I think he'll improve when he stretches out."

Jockey colony reshuffling

Jockeys Jake Barton and Anthony Stephen have left Hastings to ride elsewhere. Barton has moved to Alberta and is riding at Northlands Park. Stephen is in Macao and reportedly will return to Hastings in about three months.

Mark Walker is back riding after serving a 30-day suspension for a positive test for marijuana.

Sunday event to benefit retirement charity

The New Stride Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation is holding a benefit for New Stride and the Hastings Jockey Relief Fund. The event, which includes a silent auction, barbecue, and a dunk tank where racing secretary Lorne Mitchell will be a popular target, will be held after the races at Hastings next Sunday. Tickets are $20 and are available at the New Stride Table at Hastings.

New Stride helps find homes for retired Thoroughbreds. More information about the foundation and the benefit can be seen on its website at www.newstride.com.