Tough misses to battle tonight

The favorites did as expected last Friday in the elimination legs for the Miss Cloverdale Classic. 

That would mean a barnburner in tonight's $32,500 final even if the two were the only entrants. They won't be, so it means a barnburner would be a mild result. 

The red-hot Bigshoestofill and the also-hot Rustle For It each were odds-on favorites and each captured a leg last Friday. 

Bigshoestofill, off at 1-5, used a big finish – a 28.4 second last quarter — to win the first leg by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:57. It was the fourth win in a row for the five-year-old daughter of As Promised. 

Rustle For It was only a 4-5 top choice but also used a late rally to win by a neck in 1:57. The four-year-old daughter of Rustler Hanover, traversed the final quarter in 28.2 for her eighth win in her last 11 starts. 

Rustle For It, owned by Niele Jiwan, trained by Rick White and driven by Bill Davis, had to deal with Carson Jane, a close even-money second choice. Jane started on the rail and never left, leading by 11/2 lengths on every call to the head of the stretch. Rustle For It stalked the leader until squeaking past at the wire. Mandy Jaccka finished third. 

Rustle For It, who won the Miss Valentine on Feb. 13, now has five wins and more than $31,000 in 2005. 

Bigshoestofill was fourth at the half and third at the head of the stretch although always in sight of the front. Princess Jessica and Dealmeahos closed from even further back to get second and third while early leaders Ivys Wine and Heart And Style slipped with the former not qualifying for the final. 

Bigshoestofill is owned by Robert Murphy, trained by Bob Merschback and was driven by Jim Burke. The win was her fourth of 2005 and goes along with a second and a third in eight starts. She has earnings of more than $19,000 for the year and more than $152,000 for her career. 

Bigshoestofill has drawn the rail in today's final although she has not left from the gate in her recent wins. However, she may want to be close to the lead as Rustle For It, who has drawn the four-hole on the gate, will likely leave. 

The two favorites will both be a part of an entry. 

Bigshoestofill's entry-mate Mandy Jaccka will start from six while Heart And Style, a stablemate of Rustle For It, has drawn the three. 

Facing the biggest challenge will be top contender Carson Jane who has drawn the outside eight. 

Post positions for the rest of the field are Dal Reo Millee, two; Dealmeahos, five; Goaheadandlietome, seven and Princess Jessica, nine. 

THE BRUSTER WAITS, AND WINS: Patience is a virtue they say and with The Bruster it could just mean a big win. 

The four-year-old son of His Mattjesty captured the winners-over (invite) feature last Sunday at Fraser Downs, waiting until late - as he is wont to do -- to make a powerful move and lead at the wire. 

The Bruster started from the four-hole on the gate and was back in fifth, five lengths behind the leader, at the head of the stretch. But the late kick (28.1-second last quarter) pushed him to a narrow neck-length margin over Red Star Emerson at the wire. 

The Bruster, owned by Bruce Larway and Spud McCormac, trained by McCormac and driven by Jim Marino, has used a big finish to win before. The most memorable was in the big Nat Christie Memorial stake in Calgary when on Aug. 29 he came from seventh place at the three-quarter pole to win. 

The Bruster's win Sunday was his third in seven starts (along with two seconds and a third) in 2005 and pushed his earnings to more than $23,000. 

"He always has a little problem on the turns but picks it up coming home," Marino said of his charge's position at the three-quarter mark, "but I wasn't too worried. He's a nice horse and he has a bright future." 

The Bruster was the 5-2 third choice. Emerson, a 9-1 choice was third most of the way before holding the lead for a while and 9-5 favorite Infinite Dreams was third. Duke Is Duke, who won the event last week, stalked the early pacesetter Nuclear Dew, before falling to sixth. The Dew was fourth. 

STILL MARINO: It didn't match recent weekends but was still good enough to make Jim Marino top driver. 

Marino, who has been red hot in 2005, picked up five victories last weekend to lead the Downs' driver contingent. He now has 55 for the year. 

Bill Davis, Rod Therres and Jim Burke shared second with four wins and Gord Abbott was next with three. Sharing two each were Serge Masse, Dave McKellar, Tim Brown, Jim Wiggins and Scott Knight.

Two drivers, newcomer Steve Germain, and Darren Howald, who just got his licence a few months ago, each registered their first driving win of 2005. 

Wayne Isbister led all conditioners with four visits to the winner's enclosure. Ann Cooper and Therres had three apiece while Bob Merschback, Wiggins, Davis, Masse and Rick White had two each. 

CALIFORNIA NO DREAM NOW: Don Pegura of Coquitlam has a theory on handicapping and it has made him into a California realist. 

Pegura was one of many Fraser Downs patrons who had a dream and therefore entered the California Dreamin' Handicapping Contest. After Saturday's final the dream became a reality as Pegura captured the contest and top prize - a trip for two to the Santa Anita Derby. 

Pegura won $888 in mythical money, besting nine others who also wagered on six races from Saturday’s Santa Anita Park race track. 

Pegura had two winners and a second-place horse in his selections but it was the choice of Verkade, a 25-1 shot, in the sixth race that did the trick, giving him $711 (the bet placed is a $20 across). 

"You can't always win with favorites," Pegura explained of his theory. "Sometimes you have to take a price horse. I liked the 11 horse (Verkade) because he had had a month off and they had legged him up." 

Whatever, Pegura could be off to California. 

"I am a regular at Fraser Downs," he said. "It's quite a few years. I have been going to horse races since I was 20 and I'm 75 now. I used to go to Hastings then I switched to Fraser because it's closer and I like the simulcasts." 

Pegura has already been to Santa Anita but would love to go again. 

"Unfortunately my wife has to be in Victoria that weekend so I may have to take some else. We'll see." 

He admits he bets all tracks and his win won't stop him from coming back - and playing in more handicapping contests. 

Rick Long finished second in Saturday's final with $564 while Bill Veevers had $389, Lance Beveridge $331, Frank Neves $329 and Ray Abgrall $319. Others who battled in the final were Tim Wiesner, Maureen Nott, Tom Churchill and Ken Dunn. 

More than 350 Dreamers started after the top prize of a trip for two to the Santa Anita Derby in April. Each Saturday contestants won $250 and the day's winner(s) qualified for the final. 

CRUISER COME HOME: Seven Seas Cruiser will be home soon after all. 

The dominant three-year-old colt at Fraser Downs in 2004, and winner of several awards at the recent B.C. awards banquet, headed to the Meadowlands in New Jersey in late December. 

After a sparking qualifier, a not-bad debut race and a disappointing next race, he was scheduled to return home. But with a change of plans he traveled to Woodbine in Toronto where he was to take a shot at the Cam Fella Series. 

However, in a qualifier last Friday at Mohawk near Toronto, Cruiser again struggled. He started from the five-hole on the gate and fifth at the quarter. He roared up to take the lead at the half and was ahead at the three-quarter pole by 2 1/2 lengths. He struggled after that and was shut down by driver Chris Christoforou and finished well back in ninth. 

"Joe Stutzman (his trainer in Ontario) said he was healthy and sound but that he was just short," said Tim Brown, his trainer/driver at the Downs. "That seems a little hard to believe but we have decided to bring him home anyway. He will be on a truck on the 16th. 

"If he is all right we will try to get him ready for the Stallion Stake." 

The final for the Stallion Stake for four-year-olds with a purse of $100,000 added will be held on April 30. 

BACH STILL SWEET MUSIC: Armbro Bach, fresh off his win in the Clash of the Pacific at Fraser Downs, added yet another win to his impressive 2005 resume in last Saturday’s $17,500 feature pace at Northlands Park.  

The four-year-old son of Village Jiffy - Lindwood Metra, trained by Ray Gemmill and driven by Bill Tainsh Jr., came first up after being fourth at the quarter to take the lead at the half and once he was in the position of command he never gave it up. He won by three quarters of a length with a 1:55.1 clocking. 

In second was the fast-closing Alberta Sires Stakes star, Dudes Leaving Town, with Armbro Bolton, recent winner of the Pat Brennan Memorial at the Downs, rounding out the top three. Bolton is owned by J J J Stables and Al and Mark Anderson. Dale Reo, also trained by Gemmill, was seventh. 

Armbro Bach has assembled an impressive 6-0-0 record in seven starts in addition to banking $75,787 this season for partners Surrey's Ray Gemmill and Ian Moyes and Ron Waples of Guelph, ON. 

It was the 13th lifetime victory for the winner of $128,874. 

Meanwhile, Armbro Blacktie, owned by Ming Siu of Richmond, was third in an optional $30,000 claiming event won by Showtime Eddy, a former Downs combatant. Red Star Apache and Hi Time Ascot, also recent shippers from the Downs, were fifth and sixth.