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HORSE RACING Trust N Luck likely favorite in Florida race Saturday



Published: Mon, March 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The horse was a wire-to-wire winner in the recent Fountain of Youth Stakes.

MIAMI (AP) -- Ralph Ziadie is about to get a taste of national attention, and he seems leery at the prospect.

It's probably tough enough for the 64-year-old trainer to van Trust N Luck over to Gulfstream Park from nearby Calder Race Course for Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby. Just think what it will be like when he has to load his colt on a plane to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

"A friend of mine told me it's crazy every morning at the Derby, that there's 50 million people at the barn," Ziadie said Thursday morning, cozy as can be in an office tucked inside his barn at Calder. "I'm trying to figure out a way to duck all this attention."

Trust N Luck won't allow it. The 3-year-old chestnut colt went gate-to-wire in running away with the Fountain of Youth Stakes, and now he'll likely end up as the favorite in the 11/8-mile Florida Derby, a major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby.

Ziadie prefers the low-profile approach. Trust N Luck ran his first eight races at the friendly confines of Calder, about 10 miles from Gulfstream. He won four times, including an 11-length romp in the What A Pleasure on Dec. 14.

Easy winner

His 3-year-old debut saw the Florida-bred van over to Gulfstream a few hours before the Fountain of Youth. With Cornelio Velasquez aboard, Trust N Luck beat Supah Blitz by 51/4 lengths. The win was so impressive, owner Paul Robsham declared his horse Derby bound, no matter what happens Saturday.

"Win, draw or lose, the owner wants to go," Ziadie said. "As long as he comes out of the race healthy, that's where we're going next. But it makes me very nervous. I'm taking it one step at a time."

Ziadie seems a bit overwhelmed by what's happening. The third-generation trainer who arrived in South Florida a quarter century ago with the goal of saddling a Derby horse, is almost there.

"So many people spend so many millions of dollars trying to get their horse to the Derby," Ziadie said. "And here I am: A humble little Jamaican is going to the Kentucky Derby."

Eyes first Kentucky Derby

A trip to Churchill Downs would not only be a first for Ziadie, but for the 74-year-old Robsham, and Velasquez as well.

Trust N Luck is the 2-1 second choice behind 9-5 morning-line favorite Empire Maker in a field of seven. Also running are Indy Dancer, Midway Cat, Senor Swinger, Supah Blitz and Formal Attire.

Three other Kentucky Derby prep races are on tap for Sunday -- the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.




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