04/09/2002 11:00PM

Up-and-coming Mr. Mellon could be Derby sleeper

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Looking for a late-developing Kentucky Derby prospect? Then take a look at Mr. Mellon, the Rushaway Stakes winner who could go favored Saturday in the Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/8-mile race drew a field of 11 on Wednesday, with Mr. Mellon set to break from post 10 under Larry Melancon.

, a May foal who will be making just his fifth career start in the Arkansas Derby, won his maiden in his first two-turn start on Feb. 23, and one race later stepped up into stakes company and won the Rushaway on March 23. He stalked pacesetter Wild Horses early in the race, then took over in the stretch, winning by 2 1/4 lengths while covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.90.

"He's coming along, maturing with each route race," said Elliott Walden, who trains Mr. Mellon for Winstar Farm and Thomas Van Meter. "He definitely showed big improvement in his last race. Hopefully, he'll run well Saturday and go on to the [Kentucky] Derby. That would be the best scenario."

Mr. Mellon is a son of Red Ransom and the Summer Squall mare Mackie, a Grade 3 stakes winner of $164,579 who is a half-sister to six stakes winners, including Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero. Mr. Mellon is Mackie's first foal.

"He's a good-looking, well-balanced colt," said Walden.

Walden added that distance has not been a problem for Mr. Mellon to this point, and he does not think the 1 1/8 miles will trouble the colt Saturday. Mr. Mellon has trained well since the Rushaway, according to Walden, and was to arrive at Oaklawn by plane Thursday.

Mr. Mellon, who has tactical speed, should be stalking what could be a hot pace in the Arkansas Derby after two speed horses, Holdthehelm and Outstander, drew the inside posts. Those two could be joined on the front end by Wild Horses, who set the pace in the Rushaway before being overtaken by Mr. Mellon.

The Arkansas Derby will go as the 11th race on a 12-race card at 5:45 p.m., and is part of the Big Three Pick Three, along with the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes.

The field from the rail (with riders) is: Holdthehelm, Pat Valenzuela; Outstander, Mark Johnston; Gold Dollar, Jose Santos; Dusty Spike, Cliff Berry; It'sallinthechase, Gerard Melancon; Wild Horses, Rene Douglas; Guppie's Secret, Calvin Borel; Windward Passage, Chris McCarron; Bay Monster, Anthony Lovato; Mr. Mellon; and Private Emblem, Donnie Meche.

The connections of One Tuff Fox had considered supplementing the colt to the Arkansas Derby for $25,000 after being forced to scratch from the Illinois Derby last weekend after having violated an obscure Lasix rule, but told racing officials Wednesday morning they would not enter the race.

See How She Runs in Fantasy

Pin Oak Stable and trainer Donnie Von Hemel have had a pleasant problem the last couple of weeks: figuring out how to separate Bedanken, winner of the Grade 3, $75,000 Honeybee Stakes and $50,000 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn, and See How She Runs, an unbeaten filly who romped by eight lengths in her first two-turn start March 22.

They have decided. See How She Runs will go in the Grade 2, $200,000 Fantasy on Friday, while Bedanken will run Saturday in the $50,000 Althea Stakes. Both horses will be ridden by Don Pettinger.

See How She Runs won her debut at six furlongs over Althea entrant Sweet Sixteen on Jan. 26, then returned to win a six-furlong entry-level allowance Feb. 17 over Brown Eyed Beauty, who is being pointed to the Grade 3 La Troienne.

In her last start she went a mile. "I think she's a filly that will be better going two turns," said Von Hemel.

* Trainer Lynn Chleborad and jockey Rob Williams have had good success together all meet, and will try to close out their Oaklawn season with a bang Friday. The pair will team up with horses in the first, fifth, seventh, and eighth races, and all look live.