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Title Contender romps in British Columbia Derby

Peter Redekop B. C. Ltd.'s Title Contender turned Sunday evening's Grade 3, $144,045 British Columbia Derby into a rout, seizing command entering the final turn at Hastings and drawing off to win as much the best by 4 3/4 lengths. In the process, the Pulpit gelding atoned for his clunker in the August 17 Canadian Derby at Northlands, his first start for new connections.

Previously owned by Gary and Mary West, Title Contender flashed talent, but had an unfortunate tendency to flop on the big occasion. The $310,000 Keeneland November weanling purchase began his career with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and turned heads with an impressive wire-to-wire maiden win at Santa Anita last September.

Title Contender was pitched straight into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he led early before giving way badly and ending up eighth, and then trudged home a long-way last of 11 in the CashCall Futurity. Lowering his sights in his three-year-old debut, he finished second in a February 17 allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn.

Switched to the Wayne Catalano barn, Title Contender continued to play the role of underachiever. He was only seventh to Will Take Charge and Oxbow in the March 16 Rebel, and was subsequently gelded.

After two more allowance losses, Title Contender finally put it all together in the July 27 Ohio Derby and drove to a one-length decision. Redekop took notice and purchased him privately as a smart prospect for Canada.

Title Contender made a thoroughly inauspicious beginning for Redekop and new trainer Anita Bolton in the aforementioned Canadian Derby. He stalked out wide before retreating to 11th, beaten 37 lengths in the slop.

Ignored at 10-1 on Sunday, Title Contender was a totally different proposition on a fast track. With new rider Rico Walcott in the irons, he moved up into a stalking spot on the rail as Modern set fractions of :22 4/5 and :47 1/5. Walcott guided him off the fence down the backstretch and drew closer to the leader at the six furlong mark in 1:11 2/5.

Title Contender delivered the coup de grace on the final turn and spurted away. Although Hopeseeker tried to close, he could not bridge the gap on the commanding winner. Title Contender, who reached the mile split in 1:35 2/5, finished the 1 1/8-mile test in 1:48 1/5 and paid $22.

The 33-1 Hopeseeker garnered runner-up honors. Reporting Star, the 4-5 favorite, rallied from too far back for third, and his stablemate from the Craig MacPherson barn, Bluegrass Pride, took fourth. Modern tired to sixth in the 10-horse field.

Bred by Town and Country Farm Corp. in Kentucky, Title Contender now sports a mark of 11-3-1-2, $201,385. The dark bay is out of the multiple Grade 3-winning Roy mare Winter Garden.

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