04/07/2006 11:00PM

Brother Derek just cruises

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Alex Solis celebrates aboard Brother Derek after their smashing Santa Anita Derby win.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It took exactly 1:48 for Brother Derek to make short work of the field in the Grade 1, $750,000 on Saturday. It took slightly less time for the mind of Dan Hendricks to start doing the math.

Shortly after the 1 1/8-mile race, Hendricks, the trainer of Brother Derek, rolled into a press box elevator to be taken to the ground floor and the winner's circle. He had the grin of a Cheshire cat etched all over his face.

"Forty-eight. Good time?" he asked rhetorically, his face beaming. "Can we add 12 and change to that?"

Based on the way Brother Derek ran Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby, the answer is yes. Brother Derek solidified his position as the favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby with his best performance yet. He relaxed nicely on the lead, effortlessly put away his rivals on the turn, then drew away in the stretch while receiving just one insignificant backhand slap from his jockey, Alex Solis. At the wire, he was 3 1/4 lengths best, but the margin could have been more had Solis not geared down Brother Derek in the final sixteenth. He certainly looked like a colt who could go another furlong in four weeks at Churchill Downs.

Point Determined rallied for second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of A. P. Warrior, who tired to finish third after trying to close the gap on Brother Derek on the far turn. It was another 14 1/4 lengths to Sacred Light, who stumbled badly at the start and just did hold off the longshot Wildfang for fourth. Indy Wildcat was scratched earlier in the day.

Brother Derek clicked off fractions of 23.60 seconds for the opening quarter, 47.59 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:11.21 for six furlongs. When A. P. Warrior drew closer three furlongs from home, Brother Derek tossed a 24.18-second quarter-mile at him. A. P. Warrior was done. Brother Derek then cruised through the final furlong in 12.61 seconds despite being put under wraps late.

Brother Derek ($3) was the star attraction to the huge crowd that attended Santa Anita on Saturday, and he received a boisterous cheer from the appreciative crowd when he returned to the winner's circle. He also received high praise from Solis, who marveled at how well Brother Derek performed.

"He broke so sharp," Solis said while hustling back to the jockeys' room following the race. "He was going so easy. I thought we went 24, 48 or 49. That's how easy he was going."

Brother Derek was on his toes in the post parade, and he came out of the gate quickly. He got a little aggressive when he first turned into the backside, but within a furlong he was switched off, waiting for his cue from Solis.

"It was like he was asleep. He was so relaxed," Solis said. "I let him run a little at the half-mile, and then again at the three-eighths."

Was there more there?

"The sky's the limit," Solis replied.

Brother Derek, owned by Cecil Peacock, has now won 6 times in 8 starts. He has won four straight races, and he is perfect in five races around two turns.

Sacred Light "stumbled really bad, but it doesn't look like he grabbed himself," said his rider, Aaron Gryder.

"He was standing fine," Gryder said. "His first step was down instead of in front."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen