06/18/2004 11:00PM

Boomzeeboom triumphant in Affirmed

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Give Boomzeeboom a lead, and he'll take a mile, even a mile and sixteenth. When Boomzeeboom can make the top setting comfortable fractions, he can be a bear to get past. He showed why again on Saturday at Hollywood Park, when leading from virtually start to finish in the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds.

Boomzeeboom, who is trained by Vladimir Cerin, was passed narrowly by stablemate Twice as Bad with a furlong to go in the Grade 3 race, but he re-rallied under an aggressive ride from Victor Espinoza to prevail by a half-length. Wimplestiltskin was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Cheiron, the 6-5 favorite, finished fourth.

The key for Boomzeeboom ($27.20) was being able to set moderate fractions of 23.62 seconds, 47.01 seconds, and 1:11.31 for the first six furlongs over a track that played quite fast all afternoon. When Twice as Bad collared Boomzeeboom a furlong out, Boomzeeboom reached down deep and found more. He completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.11.

"When the other horse came to me in the stretch, he just didn't want to give up," said Espinoza, who rode Boomzeeboom after his original mount, Capitano, was scratched the morning of the race with a bruised hoof.

Boomzeeboom had won just twice in eight previous starts. In both victories, in March at Santa Anita, he led after a quarter mile and never looked back. Since those consecutive victories, Boomzeeboom had stopped badly to finish last of 14 in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, then faded when trying turf in the Wills Rogers Handicap here on May 22.

Boomzeeboom earned $66,120 from a gross purse of $110,200 for owners John Karubian, Alan Landsburg, and Larry Postaer. Cerin said both Boomzeeboom and Twice as Bad would be pointed to Hollywood's Grade 2, $400,000 Swaps Stakes on July 10.