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HORSE RACING Tough test for High Limit today



Published: Sat, April 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Colt has won all three starts this season by combined 221/2 lengths.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- At this point in his Hall of Fame career, it's hard to believe Bobby Frankel still is missing a Kentucky Derby victory.

The 63-year-old trainer is gearing up for another try with unbeaten High Limit, the favorite in today's $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland -- a race boasting perhaps the toughest field of all the Derby preps.

"I was fortunate to get this horse," Frankel said. "We'll let him break from the gate and see how it all comes up."

What's come up so far is that in each of his races, High Limit has shot to the lead under Ramon Dominguez and never trailed, winning his three starts by a combined 221/2 lengths.

"It's not his fault if he's been outrunning other horses easily," Frankel said.

The 3-year-old bay colt romped in his first two starts at Delaware Park for trainer Tony Dutrow. Owners Gary and Mary West then sent the colt to Frankel, who brought High Limit to Florida.

About 41/2 months later, after recovering from a minor foot problem, High Limit won the Louisiana Derby by four lengths.

Now comes the next step for the only top Derby contender with a perfect record: A 11/8-mile test against the strongest competition yet. The field of seven includes Tampa Bay Derby winner Sun King, San Felipe winner Consolidator, San Rafael winner Spanish Chestnut and Holy Bull winner Closing Argument. Bandini, runner-up in the Fountain of Youth, and long shot Mr Sword round out the field.

"I'd just like to get a good race in my horse," Frankel said. "Hopefully I can win it because there's still $750,000, and hopefully he's still healthy going into the Churchill Downs race in three weeks."

Arkansas Derby

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Slouched on a green metal bench near the Oaklawn Park paddock, Greater Good trainer Bob Holthus had a puzzled look on his face after scanning the entries for today's $1 million Arkansas Derby and seeing his horse listed as the No. 2 choice.

"I was a bit surprised," said Holthus, whose horse has won five of his last six races, including three at 11/16 miles.

Afleet Alex, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is the 2-1 favorite for the 11/8-mile Arkansas Derby despite never winning at a mile or longer.

Holthus, a veteran trainer at Oaklawn Park, understands. Sort of.

"Afleet Alex has had a lot of the hype, a lot of the attention, as a 2-year-old," Holthus said. "He's had success, but he still has never won going two turns."

The only time the horses met, Greater Good won the Rebel Stakes, with Afleet Alex sixth, 121/2 lengths back. After the race, it was disclosed Afleet Alex had a lung infection that required antibiotics.

Afleet Alex won his first four races -- at seven furlongs or less -- before finishing second to Proud Accolade at the 11/16-mile Champagne at Belmont last October. Wilko surged past Afleet Alex in the stretch at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile three weeks later.

The Arkansas Derby drew a field of 10 3-year-olds, including Andromeda's Hero, one of trainer Nick Zito's five Derby hopefuls.

Also in the field is Canteen, winless in three starts for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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