05/22/2009 12:00AM

Class drop may be right cure

Dustin Orona
Golden Yank ran well enough to earn a check in eight straight stakes, including this win in last October's Oklahoma Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nearly a quarter-century later, trainer Gary Thomas still gets asked about Rampage. A window of opportunity opened and closed at the top of the stretch in the 1986 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, with the eventual winner, Ferdinand, getting to an inside hole a split-second before Rampage, who got shut off and shuffled back before finishing fourth.

"The first week in May, it always comes up," said Thomas. "For years, I couldn't watch the replay because it just killed me."

It was the first and only Derby appearance for Thomas, who has made Churchill a part of a year-round Midwest circuit for years. Thomas remains the occasional stakes player with useful horses such as Golden Yank, a 4-year-old gelding who makes a rare dip into the non-stakes ranks as one of the logical contenders in the Sunday feature at Churchill, a $61,500 route that goes as the ninth of 10 races.

Golden Yank has earned $728,616, easily the most of the eight older horses in the feature, which is governed by a wide-open money condition and a $100,000 claiming option. Starting with the USA Stakes last May at Lone Star Park, Golden Yank took home a check in eight straight races, all stakes, before finishing ninth in his most recent start, the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial over a good turf course on the March 14 Louisiana Derby undercard at Fair Grounds.

"He just slipped and slid all over that wet turf," said Thomas. "He got knocked out pretty good. I've got him going good again, hopefully well enough to be right there Sunday."

Amid the string of solid efforts from Golden Yank was a runner-up finish as the 9-5 favorite in the Feb. 7 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park, a race won by Prom Shoes, one of his Sunday opponents. Prom Shoes, trained by Jinks Fires, did not fare particularly well in any of his three subsequent starts, although he, too, figures to benefit from the drop in company.

Golden Yank, with Jamie Theriot to ride, will break from post 7, while Prom Shoes, apprentice Christian Santiago Reyes up, starts from post 4.

Other threats include Mambo in Seattle, another stakes-seasoned performer trying to get back to his best form, and Dubious Miss, the curiously named gelding who stands to benefit from his April 26 comeback.