06/27/2006 11:00PM

Blazing Sunset tops Iowa Derby

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Blazing Sunset enters Friday night's Iowa Derby off a win in the Alydar.

ALTOONA, Iowa - Hollywood Park-based Blazing Sunset will go after the biggest payday of his young career as trainer Doug O'Neill has shipped him to Prairie Meadows to face seven rivals in Friday's $250,000 Iowa Derby.

The 1 1/16-mile derby is part of the Iowa Festival of Racing, which offers three six-figure stakes on both Friday and Saturday nights, and brings some of the nation's leading horsemen to central Iowa. O'Neill, Steve Asmussen, and Todd Pletcher will all run multiple horses during the festival.

was a gate-to-wire winner of the $65,000 Alydar at Hollywood in his most recent start. The 1 1/8-mile Alydar was Blazing Sunset's fourth start for O'Neill after being privately purchased in February following an allowance victory at Sam Houston Race Course.

In his first two starts for O'Neill, Blazing Sunset was well beaten by Brother Derek and A. P. Warrior in a pair of Grade 2 events, the Santa Catalina and the San Felipe.

"I threw him to the wolves in those two races, and I probably shouldn't have," said O'Neill.

Blazing Sunset has bounced back with two strong starts, a second-place finish in a first-level allowance race and his Alydar win. Although O'Neill declined to reveal the purchase price for Blazing Sunset, he said: "Based on his last race, I think he was a steal. We bought him with races like the Iowa Derby in mind."

Tyler Baze has a return call on Blazing Sunset.

Normally a horse with a single allowance win who has never run two turns would not be considered a major threat in a race like the derby. But when the horse is Pletcher-trained and sired by Fusaichi Pegasus, handicappers must take notice, and such is the case with Circle the World.

scored a 1 1/2-length victory going 7 1/2 furlongs against entry-level allowance rivals at Churchill Downs on May 17. Circle the World has worked strongly at Churchill since that race and will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

Multiple stakes winner has won 5 of his 9 starts, including three stakes, and has a field-leading $272,860 in earnings.

and Kingsfield the one-two finishers in the the Prairie Mile, the local prep for the derby.