05/31/2005 11:00PM

'Willy' returns on 6 days' rest

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CALGARY, Alberta - With the $125,000 Alberta Derby coming up on June 18, six hopefuls will run Friday in a one-mile prep at Stampede Park, carded as the seventh race.

Those who go on to the Alberta Derby figure to face Dakota Duke, who simply toyed with a short field in last Saturday's Hoofprint on My Heart.

Blackjack Willy was a surprise entrant in Friday's feature, an optional claimer at a mile. He comes back six days after running greenly in the Hoofprint and finishing a well-beaten third as the favorite in the field of five. Black Jack Willy finished strongly in the six-furlong President's here May 7, but refused to rate for Perry Winters in his latest race, drifting on the turn.

The "now" horse in Friday's field is Courtney Bay, who was most impressive in his career debut here May 15. Breaking from post 9, Courtney Bay endured a three-wide journey to win a maiden special by two lengths, running six furlongs in 1:10.40 under leading rider Quincy Welch.

The course favored speed that day, but the manner in which Courtney Bay kept to his task - plus a bullet work in 1:00.40 over five furlongs on May 28 - provided trainer Lianne Knechtel with reason enough to test him in this spot.

Tricky Thinker in another lightly raced 3-year-old in Friday's field who is eyeing the Alberta Derby. Tricky Thinker contested quick early fractions in his 2005 debut on May 22 and drew off to score by 2 1/4 lengths.