05/23/2002 12:00AM

Viva Ruckus finds spot in short field


CALGARY, Alberta - Trainer Sid Gray, searching for a spot to run Viva Ruckus, finally gets his chance in Saturday's fifth race, an optional claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

Gray had nominated Viva Ruckus to last Monday's Victoria Day Stakes at Assiniboia Downs but was unable to make shipping arrangements.

The trainer had decided against trying the local stakes runners in the one-mile Ken Pearson Memorial, and has been stuck in the barn with Viva Ruckus, a 7-year-old who was a finalist in the balloting for Alberta's 2001 claimer of the year and is a double winner already at this meet.

Gray can thank fellow trainer Rod Haynes for this opportunity, as Haynes nominated A Ray of Magic to last Monday's Pearson but opted for this spot. A Ray of Magic is the fifth entrant in Saturday's race, meaning racing secretary Barry McGrath had enough starters to card the race.

Viva Ruckus drew the rail and will carry highweight of 122 pounds, including regular rider Richard Hamel.

Viva Ruckus has seven wins and five seconds in her last 15 starts, Gray has no trouble putting up with a bit of her ornery behavior now and again. When trainer Ron Burrell claimed her for $25,000 on opening weekend, Gray was on hand with a halter next start.

In her last start, Viva Ruckus beat similar company by seven lengths on a muddy track, and will be favored to win her third straight here.

Improving 4-year-old A Ray of Magic is the main threat, and drew post 3 with Real Simard to ride.

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