05/05/2010 11:00PM

Which Texas Wildcatter will show up?


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Texas Wildcatter, who makes his 2010 debut in Saturday's $50,000 George Royal Stakes at Hastings, has been a bit of an enigma since he arrived here as a 3-year-old in 2008.

He has shown flashes of brilliance followed by below-average performances. He certainly hasn't lived up to the promise he showed in his first start here when he finished second to Spaghetti Mouse in the B.C. Cup Classic for 3-year-olds and up. Spaghetti Mouse was the top older handicap horse at Hastings at the time. When Texas Wildcatter lost to him by a neck, it seemed like all he had to do was show up to win the B.C. Derby. It didn't work out that way, however. In his next start, Texas Wildcatter was upset in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park and also was a beaten favorite in the B.C. Derby, won by Krazy Koffee.

Last year, Texas Wildcatter couldn't have been more impressive in his first start here. Coming off of fourth-place finish in a $50,000 optional claimer at Golden Gate, Texas Wildcatter scored a 4 3/4-length romp over Cabron in a six-furlong $50,000 optional claimer on April 26. He hasn't won since, although he did come close to upsetting Teide in the $101,000 Lieutenant Governors.

"It has been a bit disappointing," trainer Troy Taylor said. "Sometimes it seems like he just doesn't want to win. He's still a pretty nice horse, though."

Taylor thought all the traveling Texas Wildcatter did as a 3-year-old prior to arriving at Hastings may have caught up to him at the end of his 3-year-old season. He had raced at Philadelphia Park, Aqueduct, Lone Star, and Churchill Downs before he made his way to Hastings.

Dennis Terry, a former leading trainer at Hastings who now works part time for Taylor, quipped, "He had more miles on him than a used car."

According to Taylor, Texas Wildcatter had to deal with a throat problem last year.

"Nothing major, but we did operate on him," Taylor said.

Texas Wildcatter, who is owned by Glen Todd and Patrick Kinsella, spent the winter and spring under the watchful eye of local hall of fame trainer Alan May at the Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center in Redmond, Wash.

"He seems to be doing really well right now," May said. "He usually runs well fresh, so he should run a good race."

He arrived at Taylor's barn Wednesday morning and worked an easy half-mile Thursday.

Taylor concurred with May's assessment.

"I went to Pegasus to watch him work a few times, and he couldn't be doing better," he said. "Maybe this is the year he puts it all together."

Todd added: "This is the best he's looked since we've owned him."

Condilenios has strong pair in Royal

Trainer Dino Condilenios holds the hot hand in the George Royal. He'll saddle Teide, who was the horse of the year in British Columbia last year, and Almost Time, who is coming off of a sharp win in a classified allowance race on opening day.

On paper, Almost Time looks like the better sprinter, while Teide would appear to have the edge going a middle distance. Condilenios wasn't sure which one he was leaning toward in the 6 1/2-furlong George Royal, however.

"Don't ask me which one I like better, because I don't know," he said. "They are both training very well. Just because Teide got beat in the George Royal last year, people think he can't sprint."

Condilenios gets a little defensive when Almost Time, who has never won a race longer than 6 1/2 furlongs, is referred to as just a sprinter.

"The first time he went long, he finished second in a race that went in 1:43 and 1," Condilenios said. "He had been off for a long period of time, and I think he ran a smashing race. He can go long."

Condilenios was referring to Almost Time's second-place finish behind Tommy Danzigger in the 1 1/16-mile B.C. Cup Stellar Jay. Tommy Danzigger came back to win the Grade 3 Canadian Derby. Almost Time finished last in that 1 3/8-mile race.

A race that should hit Teide and Almost Time right on the head is the Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Aug. 22. Teide had a rough trip when he finished third in that race last year.

"It just might be the perfect distance for Almost Time," Condilenios said.

Condilenios's main concern with Almost Time is that he didn't ship very well when he traveled to Edmonton to run in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby. One of the reasons he is running him in the George Royal is his aversion to sending him to Emerald for the $50,000 Seattle Handicap next Sunday.

"The timing of the race in Seattle is much better for him, but he just didn't handle his trip to Edmonton very well," Condilenios said. "I'll keep him here for now. The Mile is certainly something to consider, but right now we are just looking at the George Royal."