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SPORTS WEEKEND | HORSE RACING

Weather Could Muddle Plans for Derby Contender Startac

March 09, 2001|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Trainer Simon Bray entered Startac on Thursday morning for Saturday's $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

But whether the impressive winner of the Turf Paradise Derby last month in Arizona runs in the Grade III depends on the weather. The potential Kentucky Derby starter, a son of Theatrical, will be shipped north today from his home at Hollywood Park.

"We'll play it by ear," said Bray, who trains Startac for the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, which includes the late owner's wife Madeleine and his three sons James, Michael and Richard.

"I have up until an hour before the race to make a decision. If there's a little moisture in the track, it won't bother me. I wouldn't run him if the track was sloppy, a sea of mud and water."

If Startac runs at Golden Gate, he will be a short price to win for the fourth time in six starts and to remain unbeaten in two races on dirt.

Never worse than third in four races on turf at the start of his career, Startac, who is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Tenga, showed that the main track may have been where he wanted to be all along last month at Turf Paradise.

Far back early as the 9-10 favorite, he commenced a big rally while kept wide by jockey Alex Solis, took the lead at the top of the stretch and improved his position. At the end, he had nearly five lengths on the runner-up and immediately became one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby.

Of course, Startac did not have much behind him that day and he won't meet a stellar group Saturday. Nine others were entered, including Golden Gate Derby winner Hoovergetthekeys, Champagne Day, Mo Mon, Unbridled Time, Look Of Eagles and San Nicolas.

Startac drew post 10, but given his running style, the outside shouldn't pose a problem for the colt.

"He's doing very well," said Bray, who spent seven years as an assistant to Bill Mott. "He's probably coming up to this race better than he was the one at Turf Paradise.

"This race is perfect. It is coming up just right in terms of timing."

Should the conditions cause Bray to scratch Startac on Saturday, the bay almost certainly would return a week later in the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

The final local prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7, the Grade II San Felipe is expected to mark the 3-year-old debut of Point Given, who is generally considered the top 3-year-old in the country.

"I'm conservative and I really don't want to run him against the better horses here yet, but the plan is the San Felipe if he doesn't run Saturday," Bray said.

If Startac wins the El Camino Real, he could surface in the Santa Anita Derby or head to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby or Kentucky for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

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Songandaprayer, the 3-year-old colt owned by former Duke basketball star Bobby Hurley, will try to follow up his victory in last month's Fountain Of Youth Stakes with another in the $1 million Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

A dozen others are entered in the Grade I race, including Outofthebox, a much-troubled second in the Fountain Of Youth; Monarchos, who will race coupled with Invisible Ink; and City Zip, who will be ridden for the first time by Corey Nakatani after finishing third in the Fountain Of Youth.

The gate-to-wire winner in the Fountain Of Youth, helped considerably when both Outofthebox and Talk Is Money were eliminated at the break, Songandaprayer is coming up to the Derby in good order, trainer John Dowd said.

"We had planned on taking him off the pace last time, but when the gates opened then it was up to (jockey) Edgar (Prado)," Dowd said. "In the Derby, we'd like to lay third or fourth and come from behind. He did it in the Huntington Stakes (a six-furlong race at Aqueduct last Nov. 26) and we know he will rate.

"He's a more sensible horse and getting better all the time. I think he'll be even better Saturday than he was in the Fountain Of Youth."

Radical Riley, Trailthefox, Turnberry Isle, Dream Run, Talk Is Money, You Know Who, Cee Dee and It's So Simple complete the field for the Derby, which is run at 1 1/8 miles.

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Vic Stauffer is Hollywood Park's new track announcer, replacing Chris Kotulak.

The race caller at Gulfstream Park in Florida, Stauffer, 41, also has worked at Garden State Park, Detroit Race Course, Hialeah, Hawthorne, Woodlands, Ak-Sar-Ben, Golden Gate Fields and the fair circuit in Northern California.

"We're pleased to introduce Vic as our new track announcer," said Hollywood Park President Rick Baedeker in a statement. "We've been impressed with his work at Gulfstream Park and we look forward to a long-term relationship. He's a professional with experience at one of the nation's elite racetracks. We're confident our patrons will enjoy his addition to the Hollywood Park team."

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Jockey Luis Jauregui will begin a three-day suspension Wednesday after being disqualified from second to fifth aboard Nena Maka in Sunday's first race. . . . Fantastic Filly, who won the Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park in her U.S. debut last fall for trainer Bobby Frankel, is the 5-2 morning line favorite in today's $75,000-added Some Sensation Stakes at one mile on the turf.

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