09/16/2002 11:00PM

Add 'Essence' to Super Derby

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - The Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby picked up a major player Tuesday when Essence of Dubai committed to the race, which will be run for the 23rd time Saturday at Louisiana Downs.

Essence of Dubai appears to be coming into a top effort for the Super Derby. He finished second in his last start, beaten 4 1/2 lengths by the explosive Harlan's Holiday in the Grade 3, $500,000 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 2.

"He ran a super race last time," said Tom Albertrani, the New York-based assistant trainer for Godolphin Racing. "If he puts in the same effort, I think we'd have a pretty good chance [in the Super Derby].

"Last year, with E Dubai, we came close to winning it."

E Dubai finished second in the 2001 Super Derby, beaten a half-length by Outofthebox.

Albertrani said Essence of Dubai may have one light workout at his Belmont Park base before he is flown to Louisiana Thursday. "Right now, we just want to keep him fresh for the race," he said. "It's only been a couple of weeks since the Penn Derby."

A $2.3 million yearling purchase by Pulpit out of champion Epitome, Essence of Dubai scored his biggest career win in March in the UAE Derby at Nad Al Sheba.

He has won 4 of 10 career starts and $1,698,200, and could vie for favoritism in the Super Derby with Private Emblem, winner of the Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby in April, and The Judge Sez Who, winner of the Grade 3, $300,000 Oklahoma Derby in August.

The addition of Essence of Dubai, who will be ridden by Jorge Chavez, brings the prospective field size for the richest race of the meet to seven horses. The others are Private Emblem, Donnie Meche; The Judge Sez Who, Eibar Coa; A.P. Five Hundred, Robby Albarado; Thunder Days, Mark Guidry; Glitzi's Classic, Russell Woolsey; and Chop Chop, rider undecided.

The Super Derby is undergoing changes this year. The race was shortened to 1 1/8 miles from 1 1/4 miles, and is a Grade 2 this year, down from a Grade 1, which it had been since 1983. It will be run on a Saturday this year, after going on a Sunday a year ago.