03/13/2008 12:00AM

Absolutely True jumps in deeper water


Absolutely True, fresh off a track-record performance here at Sunland Park last month, will be looking for another stakes win Saturday in the $50,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap. The 6 1/2-furlong event drew a field of nine, and the quality of competition makes this a tougher spot for Absolutely True.

Still, the 8-year-old gelding has won 5 of his last 7 starts, most recently powering home to win the Feb. 9 Budweiser Handicap here. Owned by Wafer Thoroughbred Ranch Inc. and trained by Jon Arnett, Absolutely True bided his time in that five-furlong race, swung wide into the lane, and blasted home, hitting the wire in a record 55.87 seconds. That race was for New Mexico-breds only; he faces open company Saturday.

Travis Wales, who was aboard in the Budweiser, will be back on Saturday.

As good as Absolutely True looked that day, he faces the horse who foiled him twice last fall: Ducky Drake.

Ducky Drake, owned by Ralph and Aury Todd and trained by Bart Hone, had a strong fall, winning three straight races, including the Zia Park Express (Absolutely True was fifth) and the KLAQ Handicap here at Sunland (Absolutely True was third). He then went to Turf Paradise and had three strong outings. Ducky Drake was second in the Swift, second in the G Malleah, and most recently, on Feb. 16, fourth in the Phoenix Gold Cup. He's also the defending champion of this race. Mark Villa rides.

Dragooner was second in both the Zia Park Express and KLAQ behind Ducky Drake - and in front of Absolutely True - for trainer Steve Asmussen. Rollicking Caller shortens up after running second as the favorite in the Winsham Lad. The well-traveled Wind Water comes from Southern California via Turf Paradise and must be respected, as must Turnbolt, another Southern California raider who, while he hasn't been as sharp the past half-year or so, boasts ample back class and has been competitive in numerous Grade 3 sprints.