02/10/2005 12:00AM

Clearer path for Lead for Speed

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PHOENIX - When Lead for Speed goes in the gate for Saturday's $100,000 Turf Paradise Derby, he won't see any of the horses who gave him trouble in his last three outings.

dueled every step of the way in the Jan. 23 Rattlesnake here, his first start over two turns, and prevailed by a nose over Scottsbluff. Before that, Lead for Speed was no challenge for the brilliant Lost in the Fog in the Arizona Juvenile on Dec. 26, finishing third by 15 1/2 lengths. Before that, Lead for Speed chased Walker in the Fool the Experts in the slop here Nov. 22 before finishing second by 6 1/4 lengths. None of those three rivals are running in Saturday's race.

That leaves Lead for Speed as the horse to beat in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds. With his speed, he figures to be in the picture from the start.

"I thought the Rattlesnake might have taken a bit out of him since he raced head-to-head most of the race," said trainer Dan McFarlane. "But he hasn't lost a thing. His last work was perfect," he said, referring to Lead for Speed's four-furlong work in 46.60 seconds. Regular rider Wilson Dieguez keeps the call.

Several California shippers stand in Lead for Speed's way, including General John B, who was supplemented to the race by trainer Roger Stein. A son of Sweetsouthernsaint, General John B invaded from Calder and finished third in Santa Anita's San Miguel on Jan. 15. The horse he chased home that day, Going Wild, came back to win the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita last weekend. Jon Court rides.

Former local leading trainer Jeff Mullins may have a say here with the talented Stormin Away. A son of Skip Away, Stormin Away won his maiden by nine lengths at Santa Anita in October in his first try around two turns. He has since chased stakes horses Chips Are Down and Diligent Prospect at Santa Anita and comes off a strong allowance win there Jan. 14, when he was moved back to this distance. Scott Stevens rides.