05/07/2005 12:00AM

Battle Won rewards trainer's confidence

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Battle Won paid $35.80 to win in the Churchill Downs Handicap on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

As Kentucky Derby Week loomed, trainer Chuck Simon couldn't help but notice that the Churchill Downs Handicap lacked a standout. Figuring that his stable star Battle Won might rate as good a chance as any other horse, Simon committed him to the race.

Simon was wrong in one respect: Battle Won not only had as good a chance, but also proved with a dazzling run that he had the best chance, period. At least for one day, on Derby Day Saturday, Battle Won was superior to some of the best sprinters in training, drawing off to a 3 1/2-length triumph in the 71st running of the Grade 2, $231,000 .

Simon already had done a commendable job in transforming Battle Won into a top turf sprinter, and the 5-year-old gelding would have been one of the favorites in the $100,000 Aegon Turf Sprint here Friday. "The horse was doing great, the purse was double, and I couldn't think of any superstars to dodge, so this is where we went," Simon said.

Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Battle Won got a great trip in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs 'Cap, sitting second behind Trickey Trevor before surging to the front late in the turn. No serious challenge developed, and Battle Won was an easy winner over runner-up Level Playingfield, a 50-1 shot. The two 3-1 favorites in a field of 11, Pomeroy and Sir Shackleton, finished third and fourth.

Battle Won, a Kentucky-bred by Honour and Glory, returned $35.80 as ninth choice and was timed in 1:20.56.

Simon, said Dominguez, "was very confident in this horse. The race went as he expected."

On behalf of owners Jay and Gretchen Manoogian, Simon purchased Battle Won privately last May for a low six-figure sum. The gelding now has won 4 of 9 starts for his new connections.