06/30/2005 12:00AM

Versatility gives edge to Lt. Sampson


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Curtis Sampson, the Canterbury Park chairman, will be represented by the uncoupled entry of Lt. Sampson and Wally's Choice in Saturday's $40,000 Blair's Cove Stakes. A field of nine Minnesota-breds was entered for the 1 1/16-mile turf contest.

Lt. Sampson demonstrated his ability to handle the turf with a 3 1/2-length victory over open allowance company in his most recent outing. A gray gelding trained by Mike Biehler, Lt. Sampson can adapt to any pace scenario, giving him an advantage over several of his rivals who need a certain type of pace to develop. Regular rider Derek Bell will be aboard Lt. Sampson.

Wally's Choice is campaigned by Sampson in partnership with Joyce and Wally McNeil. The winner of last year's Oklahoma Derby, Wally's Choice made a late run when trying the grass for the first time in the 7 1/2-furlong Brooks Fields Stakes while finishing fourth, beaten two lengths. In the Blair's Cove, Wally's Choice will get an extra furlong over which to extend his late run. Martin Escobar has the call from Biehler.

Vazandar, owned by Kissoon Thoroughbreds, finished sixth as the favorite in the Brooks Fields three weeks ago. The winner of the 10,000 Lakes and Shot of Gold Stakes this meeting, Vazandar displayed his best turf form when he captured the Come Summer Stakes last season. Seth Martinez rides for trainer Mac Robertson.

Now Playing has made an impression in each of his six seasons of racing at Canterbury Park and might not be ready to pass the torch to his younger rivals quite yet. Now 7, Now Playing has twice won the Minnesota Turf Championship but has failed to capture the Blair's Cove in three prior attempts. Bernell Rhone trains Now Playing for his breeders, Art and Gretchen Eaton. Juan Rivera is named to ride.