10/06/2006 11:00PM

Aragorn coasts under hand ride


ARCADIA, Calif. - Aragorn's position at the top of the American turf mile division is secure. Saturday at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, Aragorn won his fourth consecutive major stakes in the $250,000 .

The race was a prep to the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4, where Aragorn will be one of the leading choices.

Aragorn ($2.40) won the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile by a length over 12-1 Courtnall, but the margin was somewhat deceptive. Jockey Corey Nakatani never struck Aragorn with his whip, hand-riding the 4-year-old colt to the finish. Aragorn finished a mile on turf in 1:32.87.

"I thought it was a workmanlike performance," trainer Neil Drysdale said. "I thought it was a good prep."

Aragorn was always near the front, running in fourth for the opening quarter-mile behind pacesetter Wild Buddy, who set early fractions of 22.58 and 45.88 seconds. Racing wide on the backstretch, Aragorn moved closer to Wild Buddy with a half-mile remaining.

With a three-wide rally, Aragorn took the lead a quarter-mile from the finish. He quickly took a two-length lead in the stretch and held off his rivals. Courtnall finished a half-length in front of Irish invader Lord Admiral in the field of seven.

The win was different from Aragorn's two stakes wins at Del Mar - the Eddie Read Handicap and Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap - in that Nakatani moved Aragorn closer to the leaders at the end of the backstretch instead of waiting to launch a rally on the turn.

"Corey could have waited a little longer," Drysdale said. "The horse did it well. Maybe the horse wanted to go."

Owned by Ballygallon Stud, Aragorn has won 6 of 13 starts and $1,095,325. His winning streak began with a win in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park in May.

"He's been doing everything really easily," Drysdale said.

Aragorn was such a heavy favorite that he attracted $306,945 of the $330,658 bet to show. There was a minus show pool of $52,035.