03/11/2008 12:00AM

Blackberry Road targets Ill. Derby


STICKNEY, Ill. - A Dogwood Stable partnership won the Illinois Derby with Distilled in 2001, and Dogwood will give the race another shot this year with Blackberry Road, who finished fourth Saturday in the Louisiana Derby.

Blackberry Road is one of two 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail for trainer David Carroll, who currently is stabled in New Orleans, but will ship north to his regular base at Churchill Downs when the Fair Grounds meet draws to a close later this month. Carroll's other Derby hopeful, Denis of Cork, is likely to see action the same day as Blackberry Road when he starts in the Wood Memorial, but he could go in the Illinois Derby if Blackberry Road's plans change.

Carroll and Dogwood are trying to ensure that Blackberry Road has sufficient graded stakes earnings to make the Kentucky Derby field, should he be a suitable entry come Derby time. Blackberry Road has never raced beyond 1 1/16 miles, but his connections believe he may turn out to be a better horse at longer distances. The Grade 2 Illinois Derby, the highlight of the Hawthorne meet, is contested at 1 1/8 miles and gives Blackberry Road a month to recover from a taxing effort Saturday.

"He ran hard the whole way, and I've never seen him this tired," Carroll said Tuesday morning. "Today was his best day since the race, though."

Blackberry Road, who raced much closer to the lead Saturday than he had in his two previous races this winter, will need a new jockey at Hawthorne. Robby Albarado rode Blackberry Road on Saturday, but also is the rider for Denis of Cork.

Giant Moon, a non-factor in Saturday's Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, also has been mentioned as a possible starter here.

Miss Red Delicious seeks rebound

Appearances this time of year at Hawthorne by horses that have run in a graded stakes are rare indeed, but Miss Red Delicious, who may go favored in the featured sixth race Thursday, started in the Grade 2 Matron last fall at Belmont Park. She didn't run too well in it, but she was there.

Last of seven behind Proud Spell in the Matron, Miss Red Delicious didn't race again until Jan. 19, and two starts this year - both in stakes - have produced only modest results. But Miss Red Delicious doesn't appear to have had the best of luck recently and looks well spotted going 5 1/2 furlongs in a second-level allowance race on Thursday at Hawthorne.

To bounce back with her first win since the Avery Fisher Debutante last summer at Ellis Park, however, Miss Red Delicious will have to avoid a speed duel with Carts Italian Rose. That filly most recently finished sixth behind Rated Fiesty in the Dixie Belle Stakes at Oaklawn, but romped in an Illinois-bred maiden race, and narrowly won the $100,000 Showtime Deb Stakes sprinting last fall at Hawthorne.

Carts Italian Rose also has good early speed, and a protracted duel between she and Miss Red Delicious could produce a mild upset from Inbetween Rainbows, who will be trying to rally in the stretch.

Thornton off to strong start

With 11 wins from 31 starters, Tim Thornton was the decided riding star of opening week. No other jockey won more than three races during the first four days of the meet.

Trainer Roger Brueggemann won four races on Friday's opening-day card, and finished week one of this short meeting with six winners from 13 starters.