Monsoon Rain will need the performance of his life when he defends his title in the $30,000, six-furlong Free Press Stake, the seventh race Saturday at Assiniboia Downs.
A couple of hired guns, and another gunslinger from one barn over all have their sights set on a trip to the winner's circle.
Coronas At Delmar, a five-year-old stud out of Portland Meadows in Washington, is the front-runner with 5-2 odds. He's followed by Chaplain, a six-year-old gelding from Turf Paradise in Phoenix (3-1) and Monsoon Rain (7-2), an eight-year-old gelding.
Aiming to make it a crowd at the wire is Monsoon Rain's stable neighbour, four-year-old gelding Wooden Ya Know It (5-1).
According to the Downs' morning line, here's how the finish should look:
1. Coronas At Delmar (5/2), Jockey: David Lopez
What a bargain this Kentucky-bred offspring of Zavata, out of Kara Young by Gulch, has turned out to be for owner Shelly Nance. Since being claimed on Dec. 15 for $2,500 he's won five races in a row.
Jennifer Rodriquez, who is handling Coronas At Delmar here for his trainer Jonathan Nance, says a change of racing surface seemed to have worked wonders for him.
"Honestly, I think that when they put artificial surface down in California, a lot of horses didn't like it. When he hit Portland, he was definitely a horse for the course. He loved it there. We worked him here the other day, and he was phenomenal, so I think he'll be just as good on our track."
3. Chaplain (3/1), Jockey: Jorge Carreno
Chaplain's owner Simon Hudy paid $37,500 to claim him on May 30, 2009, but trainer Robertino Diodoro has this Ontario-bred son of Touch Gold, out of Inspirational by Lord At War (ARG), winning big, taking three of his last four races.
Jodi Radul has been training Chaplain for the last two weeks, and says she and Diodoro are in contact daily as to his training regimen.
"After 27 years of training here, he is probably the nicest horse I've ever had the pleasure of looking after," said Radul. "Chaplain is a professional. As soon as the saddle goes on, he just perks right up and out he goes. He knows exactly what he wants to do, and he does it."
5. Monsoon Rain (7/2), Jockey: Juan Crawford
What can you say about the defending champion, other than it's his race to win? Trainer Tanya Lindsay believes Monsoon Rain, who also won the Wheat City Stake last year, can run with the big boys.
The Kentucky-bred horse hasn't raced this season.
"He came in a little bit late this year," said Lindsay, "so rather than run him when he wasn't 100 per cent ready, we decided to take our time and let him get ready on his own schedule."
The biggest thing going for her horse, says Lindsay, is home-track advantage.
7. Wooden Ya Know It (5/1), Jockey: Janine Stianson
"He's ready to run," says trainer Jerry Gourneau. "I started him two times at Turf Paradise (Phoenix), four times in Nebraska, and once here. He's kind of on a roll right now. If he doesn't run second, he wins, and he's had three wins already this season, so he's doing pretty good."
The son of Woodman, out of G.D. Calen by Dynaformer, won his last two outings here on May 15 and April 16. On March 9, he won at Fonner Park in Nebraska.
8. Justin (5/1), Jockey: Larren Delorme
Justin, a Kentucky-bred son of Speightstown, out of Love At Noon by Afternoon Deelites, will have last year's leading jockey in the saddle and has won his last two trips.
6. Mr Exspeedient (8/1), Jockey: Tyrone Nelson
In his trip, Nelson rode him to a win, but that was the first win since Aug. 7, 2009. In the three races in between, the son of Storm Victory, out of Icecapade Star by Wander Kind, hasn't even shown.
2. Grow Up (10/1), Jockey: Vicky Baze
Despite the fact he won the R.J. Speers Stake last year, Grow Up isn't to be taken seriously. Still, the son of Victory Gallop has won four of his last seven races. Factor in that Vicky Baze, who currently leads the jockey standings with 15 wins will be in the saddle, and we could have an upset.
4. No Reply (20/1), Jockey: Rohan Singh
At 20/1, even three-time leading jockey Rohan Singh can't make this six-year-old gelding a winner.
The first race goes to post at 7 p.m. The Free Press Stake post time is approximately 9:30 p.m.