09/03/2004 11:00PM

Victory Light hard to gauge

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - In many ways it's a long way from Saratoga to Hastings, the small five-furlong oval that sits right next to the Georgia Inlet in Vancouver. Victory Light, who has been racing with the aristocrats of racing in the East, will be able to see the Pacific Ocean when he makes his first start on the West Coast in the Richmond Derby Trial on Monday.

The Trial, which is the final prep for the Grade 3, $250,000 British Columbia Derby on Sept. 26 drew eight horses, but most of the attention will be on how Victory Light stacks up against the local 3-year olds and whether he's a legitimate B.C. Derby contender.

Victory Light has faced a lot tougher competition than he will be running against in the Richmond Derby Trial. As a 2-year-old in Elliott Walden's barn, he finished fifth to Eurosilver in the Grade 3 Breeders' Futurity at Keenland. That field included Limehouse, who went on to win the Tampa Derby and finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Victory Light's best race this year was his fourth-place finish to Hi Teck Man in the WinStar Derby in New Mexico.

Actually, most of Victory Light's races would be good enough to win the Trial but he is coming off one of the worst outings in his 10-race career, a last-place finish in an entry-level allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 7. The fact that he's still eligible for a nonwinners-of-two makes him a lot less than a cinch. But, he's still the one to beat and his trainer, Tom Longstaff, likes the way Victory Light has handled his new environment.

"He kind of blew me away when he ate up everything we offered him on the first day he arrived here," said Longstaff. "Not many horses handle that long of ship as well as he did."

Victory Light, who was purchased for an undisclosed sum by Dan Sutherland, arrived at Hastings on Aug. 24, and after he settled in, Longstaff sent him out for a serious move with Pedro Alvarado aboard last Sunday. Longstaff was pleased with the five-furlong work in 1:02.60 over a sloppy track.

"It was one of the worst tracks we've had all year, and he appeared to handle it well," said Longstaff. "According to his previous connections he's not supposed to handle an off track very well, but that didn't seem to be the case during the work. Pedro let him chase a horse down the lane and he was happy with the way Victory Light responded when he was asked."

Longstaff was also happy with the way Victory Light handled the turns, and thinks he will run a big race Monday.

"He's not a real big horse and he didn't have any trouble going around the turns," he said. "All in all he couldn't be doing much better, so I think he'll run a good race and I think he's a real derby horse."

Longstaff also reported that Dancewithavixen was doing well after being turned out for the year and that Louie Downtown has also been turned out.

"He has the same problem as Dancewithavixen," he said. "His check ligaments are bothering him, so we'll give him the rest of the year off as well."

Louie Downtown just missed winning the B.C. Cup Stallion Stakes in his last start.

Bryant in stakes at two tracks

Trainer Steve Bryant will be busy Monday. He has entered Gratitude Attack in the Randall Plate here and Never Surrender in the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby. Never Surrender was recently purchased by Ross Mcleod and Charles Ming after finishing second in the Real Good Deal Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 7. Along with Adrian Thomas, they also own Gratitude Attack.

A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding, Gratitude Attack will be making his first start at Hastings since shipping here from Monmouth in July. He went unplaced in both of his races at Emerald, but he had legitimate excuses both times. He battled through extremely fast fractions before tiring in the Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup and he didn't appear to like the sea of slop the Emerald surface turned into for the Longacres Mile.

"I just hope he gets to run his race," said Bryant. "I would give him time off if I thought he needed it, but he's not acting like a horse that needs a break."

Foot still bothers Regal Red

According to trainer Robbie Anderson, Regal Red didn't come out of her work last weekend in optimum shape.

"The bruise on her foot resurfaced and so we didn't run her this weekend," he said. "She's back jogging and hopefully we can have her ready for the Oaks, but it might be a stretch."