Busy weekend on tap for Derby contenders Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Fair Grounds offer races

March 14, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

HALLANDALE, Fla. -- The Kentucky Derby winner likely races this weekend -- today at Gulfstream Park in the Florida Derby or Swale Stakes, today at Santa Anita Park in the San Felipe Stakes or tomorrow in New Orleans at the Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby.

At least "Derby Dozen" thinks so. Our top nine prospects compete in the four races. After this, the major Kentucky Derby preps dwindle to a precious few, including the Santa Anita Derby on April 4 and the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 11 at Keeneland.

The Kentucky Derby is May 2 at Churchill Downs.

Favorite Trick, the reigning Horse of the Year, makes his XTC 3-year-old debut for trainer Bill Mott in the seven-furlong Swale here at Gulfstream. The race will be shown on tape during ABC's Florida Derby telecast, which begins at 5: 30 p.m.

Mott said the Blue Grass Stakes would probably be next. But he declined to speculate on the chances of Favorite Trick, son of a sprinter, making the Kentucky Derby.

At 5: 45 p.m., six horses contest the 1 1/8 -mile, $750,000 Florida Derby, including Lil's Lad, the speedy son of Pine Bluff who has won all three races this year.

His trainer, Neil Howard, has tried to teach him to relax early, because he realizes no horse can win the Kentucky Derby, or even the Florida Derby, blazing every furlong. Howard trained Summer Squall, second to Unbridled in the 1990 Derby and winner of the Preakness.

"If that doesn't happen," Howard said, meaning relax, "there could be a problem. I'm certainly not naive enough to say that he can go head-to-head with five horses the first half mile in the Derby and still be there at the end."

Then he thought a moment.

"But this horse can go fast and still be there," Howard said. "One thing about it, whatever this horse does -- win, lose or draw -- it won't be for lack of trying. He's like Summer Squall in that respect. Summer Squall would run through a wall."

Coronado's Quest and Halory Hunter provide the main competition. Nick Zito, who trains the late-running Halory Hunter, said his horse needs a lively pace. He said he probably won't get it today, but might in the Kentucky Derby.

"It'd be great to win the Florida Derby," Zito said. "But if I had a choice, I'd choose the other one."

In the 1 1/16-mile, $250,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, Artax (7-5 in the morning line), Prosperous Bid (8-5), Sea of Secrets (4-1) and Real Quiet (9-2) meet in an audition for the Santa Anita Derby.

Tomorrow, 10 ambitious 3-year-olds tangle in the 1 1/16-mile, $500,000 Louisiana Derby, including Comic Strip (5-2), Souvenir Copy (7-2), Time Limit (9-2) and Captain Maestri and Cowboy Dan (both 6-1).

Pub Date: 3/14/98

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