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Friends Lake sprints into the Derby picture

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Published March 14, 2004

HALLANDALE BEACH - Another New York bred is taking aim at the Kentucky Derby.

Friends Lake swept past favorites Read the Footnotes and Value Plus with less than 70 yards to go for a surprising victory in the $1-million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

Friends Lake, bred in New York as was last year's Kentucky Derby winner, Funny Cide, was dismissed at odds of 37-1 but beat Value Plus by three-quarters of a length in one of the major preps leading to the May 1 Derby.

Read the Footnotes, the even-money favorite, was unable to match his gutty stretch run in winning the Fountain of Youth last month and finished fourth behind a fast-closing The Cliff's Edge.

Minutes later, the road to the Kentucky Derby became even more muddled when Wynn Dot Comma, ridden by Edgar Prado, edged favorite Eurosilver by a head in the $150,000 Swale Stakes.

The win gave Prado his 5,000th career victory. Prado, 36, ranks sixth among active riders. The leader is Pat Day with more than 8,600. Recently retired Laffit Pincay is the overall leader at 9,531.

Eurosilver and Read the Footnotes entered among the top Derby prospects. Trainer Nick Zito said Eurosilver will be pointed to the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 10, and trainer Rick Violette Jr. said he hopes Read the Footnotes will make the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, also April 10.

A distant third in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 17, Friends Lake overcame a minor gate problem and settled in along the rail, well behind pacesetter Frisky Spider. Jockey Richard Migliore then guided the son of A.P. Indy outside and swung him four wide around the turn for home in the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds.

But it appeared Read the Footnotes, also a New York bred, and Value Plus would battle down the stretch the same way Read the Footnotes and Second of June did in the Fountain of Youth. It wasn't to be, as Friends Lake ran them down in the stretch for his third win in five career starts before a crowd of 25,505.

Friends Lake returned $76.80, the third-largest winning payoff in the 53-year history of the Florida Derby, $24.80 and $12.20.

SANTA ANITA OAKS: Silent Sighs beat Halfbridled by 11/2 lengths in the $300,000 race in Arcadia, Calif., in her first appearance in a major stakes race. Halfbridled, last year's Breeders' Cup juvenile fillies champion, was unbeaten and favored in the Grade I race for 3-year-old fillies. She paid $15.40, $5.20 and $2.40. Halfbridled returned $2.60 and $2.10 while A.P. Adventure was 11/2 lengths behind her and paid $2.20.

EL CAMINO REAL DERBY: Kilgowan, a 26-1 shot, rallied from seventh to post a half-length win in the $200,000 Grade III race for 3-year-olds at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif. Ridden by Chance Rollins, Kilgowan covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.87 to record his third victory in five starts. Capitano and 9-5 favorite Seattle Borders finished in a dead heat for second. Skipsalew, the 2-1 favorite and winner of the Golden Gate Derby and Gold Rush Stakes in his last two starts, finished seventh. Kilgowan, a gray son of Smoke Glacken, paid $55.80, $15.20 and $9.20. Capitano paid $4 and $4.60 and Seattle Borders $3 and $3.80.

OAKLAWN BREEDERS CUP: Golden Sonata moved up from last in the stretch to win the $200,000 race in Hot Springs, Ark. Golden Sonata was in 10th out of the gate and remained there before moving up to sixth in the stretch. Mayo On the Side had the lead in the stretch by a head but fell to third after being overtaken by Golden Sonata in the 1 1-16 mile race for fillies and mares 3 years old and up.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: Benny's Gem went down in the seventh race Friday with Jill Jellison aboard. Jellison was treated at a hospital and released, according to Downs director of public relations Margo Flynn. The horse was euthanized.

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