12/30/2004 1:00AM

Crown Point set to rebound


MIAMI - Anybody trying to determine whether Crown Point's fourth-place finish in the Grand Canyon Handicap at Churchill Downs can be disregarded when handicapping Saturday's $100,000 at Calder need not wonder any longer.

"The turf course was a bog, and he just wasn't as sharp as he was in his previous two victories," said trainer David Donk when asked to assess Crown Point's performance in the Grand Canyon. "I think it's a throw out."

Toss his race in the Grand Canyon, and Crown Point becomes one of the horses to beat in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby, the highlight of Saturday's Grand Slam III program at Calder. The 12-race card also includes the $100,000 Tropical Park Oaks, $100,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap, and the $50,000 Happy New Year Stakes. The four stakes are linked in a $250,000-guaranteed pick four.

The Tropical Park Derby is for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Crown Point came into the Grand Canyon off a pair of impressive grass wins at Belmont Park - a 4 1/4-length maiden victory and a three-quarter-length upset in the 1 1/8-mile Pilgrim Stakes.

"His maiden win was fast and convincing, and then he beat a pretty good field of horses in the Pilgrim," said Donk. "He blew out for this race here at Palm Meadows Wednesday and went pretty good. My main concern Saturday is the condition of the turf course, since it's the tail end of a long meet and seems to be pretty hard-used."

Crown Point will get a rematch in the Tropical Park Derby with Exceptional Ride, who rallied to a 1 1/4-length victory in the Grand Canyon. The win was the second straight for Exceptional Ride, an improving son of Chester House who is trained by Ken McPeek.

The local contingent in the Tropical Park Derby is led by Turk's Ransom and Lord Robyn, both of whom come into the race with two-race win streaks over their home course.

Turk's Ransom overcame trouble to capture the restricted Appleton Juvenile Turf Stakes on Nov. 13 and has since turned in a couple of sharp workouts over the turf.

Lord Robyn led throughout to win a mid-priced claiming race and a first-level allowance event on the grass and has also subsequently recorded two fast morning works on grass.