07/01/2008 12:00AM

'Wally' looks ready for rebound


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - About 12,000 fans are expected to attend Canterbury Park's Thursday card, which has a special 4 p.m. post time to facilitate a fireworks show that will follow live racing. Trainer Mike Biehler and his charge Wally's Choice could start the festivities early in the $50,000 Blair's Cove Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for older Minnesota-breds.

Bred by Canterbury Park chairman Curtis Sampson and campaigned in partnership with Joyce and Wally McNeil, Wally's Choice is one of the most accomplished Minnesota-breds in recent memory. A winner of the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby in 2004, Wally's Choice has captured eight other stakes, including the 2005 and 2006 renewals of the Blair's Cove Stakes.

Sidelined by an injury at the end of July 2006, Wally's Choice didn't race for almost two years, but showed flashes of his old form with a third-place finish behind Prospective Kiss and Heza Wild Guy in an allowance contest six weeks ago. Wally's Choice appeared to regress a bit in his next outing, a fifth last month in the Brooks Fields Stakes, which was transferred from the turf to the main track.

A sharp five-furlong breeze Saturday and a weather forecast that calls for clear skies and temperatures in the 70s suggest the stage is set for the fan favorite to put forth his best effort in the Blair's Cove. Jason Lumpkins rides Wally's Choice, who will break from the rail in a field of 12.

The Blair's Cove is a good betting contest, with the field including Torpedo Man, Sir Tricky, and Chaska, who finished in that order in last year's renewal of the event. Torpedo Man, who hasn't raced on turf this meet, will be ridden by Paul Nolan for trainer Bernell Rhone.

Sir Tricky has never been worse than second in four tries on the grass. Leading rider Derek Ball takes over on Sir Tricky for trainer Mac Robertson.

Owner-breeder Camelia Casby will be represented by an uncoupled entry in Chaska, to be ridden by Nik Goodwin, and Palm Reader, who keeps regular rider Juan Rivera.