09/21/2006 11:00PM

Woodbine leader Wilson meets rival on his turf


Emma-Jayne Wilson, last year's Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey, will be making her first trip to Hastings on Sunday, when she rides Ok Nothanksforaskn in the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby. Joining her from Woodbine will be Justin Stein, who has the mount on Head Chopper. Last year, Stein set a record for wins by an apprentice at Hastings before he moved his tack to Woodbine in the fall.

Wilson and Stein lost their apprentice allowances a few weeks ago. Wilson leads the Woodbine jockey standings with 92 wins through Thursday. Stein is third with 80 wins.

It seems as if a friendly rivalry has developed between the two.

"Horse racing is a very competitive sport, so, yeah, there is a bit of a rivalry between us," said Wilson. "He came pretty late last year, so it's really developed more over this season. We're both about the same age, and we're part of a nice group of young riders. He's a great guy to have in the room."

Wilson has never ridden on a track as small as Hastings, but she said she wasn't concerned about making the adjustment.

"Justin said the turns aren't as sharp as the ones on the inner track here," she said from Woodbine. "I would hazard a guess that they're more like the swooping turns at Keeneland. I'm certainly not worried about it."

Ok Nothanksforaskn figures to be on the lead in the derby, so getting a good position early shouldn't be a problem for Wilson.

"I'm not sure he has to be on the lead, but he certainly likes to be in front," she said. "I'm 2 for 2 with him, so I feel pretty good about coming out there to ride him."

Ok Nothanksforaskn, who drew post 5 in the derby, dead-heated with Breeders' Stakes winner Royal Challenger in a non-conditioned allowance race Sept. 8. Wilson also rode Ok Nothanksforaskn when he won an entry-level allowance race at Woodbine last December.

Stein said he doesn't think his past experience at Hastings will give him much of an edge over Wilson in the derby.

"My horse will give me the edge," he said. "Her horse is pure speed, where mine is more versatile. He's coming off of a very good second to a tough older horse, and I think I've got a pretty nice horse to ride."

Head Chopper, owned by Steve Owens, finished second to Barbeau Ruckus in the restricted $125,000 Elgin Stakes on Sept. 4. Barbeau Ruckus is a 7-year-old gelding with over $1 million in earnings.

Stein made a wise career choice with the move to Woodbine. Last year, his mounts earned just over $2 million at Hastings. This year, his mounts have earned over $3.7 million.

"It's gone very well," he said. "And it's pretty exciting right now. People are watching the standings, and both Emma and I are doing very well without the bug."

Best yet to come for Ok Nothanksforaskn

Also returning to Hastings is Lorne Richards, who trains Ok Nothanksforaskn. Richards trained horses at Hastings for over 20 years before moving to Woodbine in 2001, where he trains exclusively for K.K. Sangara. Richards said he likes the way Ok Nothanksforaskn is coming into the derby.

"I don't think I've gotten the best out of him yet, and I don't think he really liked the inner track," he said, referring to the converted harness track Woodbine used while a new Polytrack surface was being installed over the main track this summer. "He's a very fast horse, and it's going to take a pretty good horse to beat him. I wouldn't trade places with anyone, but Steve [Owens] would probably say the same thing about Head Chopper."

Ok Nothanksforaskn is a son of Thunder Gulch. Richards said he thinks that Ok Nothanksforaskn will end up being a better sprinter than a route horse, but he is still confident Ok Nothanksforaskn will be able to get the derby distance of 1 1/8 miles.

"We've been pointing him towards this race for a couple of months now," he said. "K.K. really wants to win this race, and I wouldn't send the horse all the way to Vancouver if I didn't think he had a real good chance of winning. We're not coming out just for the fun of it."

Ok Nothanksforaskn will be coupled with Seven Secrets in the derby. Seven Secrets, who is trained by Harold Barroby, is the only homebred in the field. She was bred by Sangara, who also raced his dam, Angie's Secret.

"Actually, Harold and his wife, Sandra, should get the credit for being the breeder," said Sangara. "They foaled and raised the horse and have basically done everything with him."

Sangara is always looking for the easiest spot to run his horses, but he said he was a bit disappointed that Doug O'Neill opted to keep Gimme S'mor in California.

"I would have liked to have gotten a little revenge," said Sangara, jokingly. "He outshook me for Lava Man. Actually, I was surprised there was another claim in for him, because he was about 8-1 in the race."

According to Sangara, the only two claims in for Lava Man came from O'Neill and him. Since being claimed, Lava Man has become one of the top older horses in North America.